Close-Up: Adland called upon to save Brits from swine flu

Campaign asked advertising creatives to give their opinions on the Government's recent swine flu campaign from DDB.

- George Prest, executive creative director, Delaney Lund Knox Warren

Earlier today, I got sent an e-mail. It was titled "Latest Swine Flu Casualty" and it contained a picture of Kermit the Frog lying dead in the gutter with the caption: "And we all know who gave it to him."

It made me laugh and, for a couple of seconds, punctured the hysteria that seems to have gripped the civilised world over a flu bug that may or may not have started with a young boy in Mexico who is now absolutely fine. The madness has been astonishing, laughable even. Which is why this NHS swine flu campaign is so good. It takes the issue seriously but deals with it in a calm way. It delivers the facts and presents a humble solution.

It couldn't be clearer; my four-year-old son chases his two-year-old brother around the kitchen with an imaginary spear, shouting: "Catch it. Bin it. Kill it." This may be a statement of how much TV we watch as a family, but it also attests to a message that is brutally simple.

And it came out so quickly. There was no tangible delay between the fourth estate going crazy and the NHS putting them in a straitjacket.

Should we worry that it's not particularly creative? I don't think so. That wasn't the brief here. Leave that to the guys who have enough time to write the Kermit gags.

It's NHS advertising at its best, a good use of government money and a much-needed dampening down of the tabloid fires. Well done, DDB. Well done, the Government. And hopefully Kleenex has some nice tactical work lined up as well.

- Steve Aldridge, creative partner and chairman, Partners Andrews Aldridge

In circumstances like this - a potential pandemic - I believe the relevant debate is not around whether it's a good piece of creative thinking and execution. It's more about how successful it is at delivering critical information to the entire nation, regardless of age, race, educational attainment or whatever.

All I need after seeing this campaign, and in particular the national door-drop, is to understand what I need to do as a result of seeing or receiving it. In short, I think it does that very well.

In my opinion, all communication should inspire, involve and inform. This is all about informing. It's also interesting when the thing you are talking about is the lead story on the news. The nation is looking to the advertising to give them the information they crave. I think the thing it does really well is act as a counterpoint to the news, so rather than talk about potential deaths, it dramatises the details, the small but real things that can help spread the virus. This is work that is well executed and I think achieved a real effect, in that the people in my office were talking about the TV ad and the door-drop. Not as aesthetic pieces, but about the content. And that must be a good thing.

The wider issue that's worth considering is our obligation as marketers and communicators to handle these kinds of tasks in the right way. A gimmicky idea, a snappy metaphor, a witty line would have been wrong and inappropriate. Yet "Catch it. Bin it. Kill it" is simple and memorable.

- Colin Nimick, executive creative director, OgilvyOne London

Given the time that they had to do it in, this is a pretty decent effort. The leaflet is easy to read, cleanly designed and full of information, the Q&A format works well and the large-print and MP3 audio versions are a nice touch.

The tone is measured and informative, which is how you need to sound if you're going to counter the more lurid media coverage. The design isn't going to win any awards but this is functional work that needs to be turned around quickly and do a job, not win a Cannes Lion.

All laudable, but, for me, there are a couple of big flaws. The first is that the emphasis is almost totally on prevention. Which is fair enough, but human nature being what it is, what people want to know is if they've got swine flu or not. What are the symptoms? How are those symptoms different from avian flu, or the other types we've encountered before? There's a short list, tucked away on the back page of symptoms, but they just read like any old flu symptoms.

The leaflet fails to tell us in what way swine flu is different from "ordinary" flu, apart from the fact that nobody has immunity to it. But is it more dangerous or debilitating?

These are the things ordinary people really want to know and they've become a bit lost in the welter of information in the leaflet and on the website (there's almost too much info on the website; they've over- complicated things).

The second flaw is that the most sensible piece of advice anyone can offer in situations like this is: "If you don't feel well, stay at home." More than anything else, this would prevent the spread of the disease. This isn't made clearly or firmly enough. To be fair to the agency, these flaws may be down to the brief and/or the nature of the work, but, with health messages, you need to be telling the public what they really want to know as much as what they need to know.

- Darren Bailes, joint creative director, VCCP

It must have been tempting to go down the "let's round up everyone who's been on their hols to Mexico in the last six months and send them to a leper-style colony" strategy, or even the "anthropomorphised pigs in sombreros" one.

But, thankfully, someone saw sense and cut to the chase. Pigs and Mexico were avoided and we were given the basic hygiene tip of how to sneeze. Swine flu or no swine flu, it's something we all need to know. Especially people on the District Line at 7.45 each morning. It's carnage. While the media updated us by the hour about new swine flu cases, the advertising avoided such hysteria and stopped us losing the plot. This work is a modern-day version of a 50s government infomercial. Simple and direct. With each viewing or reading of a leaflet, you feel more confident you won't be next. I suppose that's job done.