The battle against Coronavirus is raging around the world. And every day new restrictions are placed on people across the globe in a bid to stem the spread of the disease.

The launch of the public health campaign

In the UK, very quickly after it became clear that Coronavirus pandemic in the UK was less a case of ‘if’ and more a case of ‘when’, the Government admirably responded with a public health campaign educating consumers on the importance of hand washing and giving instruction on how to do it properly.

What is the justification for the media mix?

However, the chosen media mix of this public health campaign was confusing. There were billboards and digital displays at train stations and bus stops and the odd poster, for instance at the doctor’s surgery. I wouldn’t however, say that I had been bombarded by the message. In fact I’d say quite the opposite.

According to Campaign Magazine the ads were being rolled out across print, radio, online and out-of-home. Spot the glaring omissions. TV and direct mail.

What’s wrong with TV?

Given my interest in direct mail I am rarely one to sing the virtues of TV advertising, however, despite increasingly fragmented audiences it remains a mass media and with strong planning strategy behind it the message could effectively have reached a large proportion of the population, repeatedly. Helping to reinforce the importance of the message.

Legitimate interest comes into play

And then we come to direct mail. Royal Mail delivers to 99 per cent of the UK population and therefore this is the channel with the greatest reach of all. Furthermore, because it is a public health message GDPR rules on opt-in do not apply, with legitimate interest coming into play. Legitimate interest is one of the six lawful bases for processing personal data and states that an organisation (in the case the Government) can process the personal information of consumers if there is an inherent benefit for wider society. In this case it is in the best interests of the UK public to know how to respond to the outbreak of Covid-19. It really could save lives.

The pros of DM

The benefits of direct mail are very well known:

  1. It is tangible – research shows that people take more notice of something that they can touch
  2. It loiters – on average direct mail stays in the house for 17 days
  3. It is displayed – this is probably the key benefit for a public health campaign. Almost forty per cent of recipients to Royal Mail’s Private Life of Mail campaign say they have a dedicated display area in their home where they put mail. This means that the mailer could serve as a reminder in the kitchen for every member of the family to wash their hands regularly for at least 20 seconds using soap and hot water, and catch sneezes and coughs in tissues.

Low risk media

Some might argue that there is a risk that direct mail could spread the virus if touched by an infected person. However, the scientists have proven that the risk is non-existent as the virus does not survive on paper (hence the importance of catching sneezes and coughs in tissues).

Omission spotted

A few weeks on and it has been announced that Boris is now writing to each of us and vulnerable people to explain what is expected of us during this period of extreme social distancing. Clearly the lessons have been learnt and DM is once again shown to be an incredibly effective mass media, but personalised channel.