Government makes call for personal responsibility in powerful Covid ad

Campaign asks public to look Covid patients and frontline workers 'in the eyes and tell them you are doing all you can to stop the spread of Covid-19'.

Covid-19: ad features the faces of real patients, doctors and nurses
Covid-19: ad features the faces of real patients, doctors and nurses

The UK government is calling on the public to think about the impact of their actions on healthcare staff and patients in its latest TV ad in the national effort against Covid-19.

The spot, which breaks tonight (22 January) and was created by MullenLowe, features close-up shots of various faces – some wearing surgical masks, others ventilation masks. It ends with the message: “Look them in the eyes and tell them you are doing all you can to stop the spread of Covid-19.”

The ad was created by Jane Briers and Dave Cornmell and directed by Simon Ratigan through HLA. The media agency is OmniGov. Other agencies involved in the campaign are Freuds, MMC and 23red.

The TV ad will be shown on Channel 4 at 8.45pm during Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, and on ITV during one of the ad breaks of Endeavour (from 8.45pm onwards). It is supported by work across radio, out of home, digital, print and social. The other executions feature imagery of other key workers, who are often at increased risk of contracting the virus, including bus drivers, pharmacists and shop assistants.

The work marks a shift in emphasis in the government’s comms from a focus solely on adhering to the rules, towards encouraging people to take personal responsibility and consider the impact of their behaviour on others. It follows insights that revealed the current messaging in the “Stay at home” campaign had resulted in reduced levels of social contact.

Conrad Bird, director of campaigns and marketing at the Covid-19 Hub, Cabinet Office, said: “The 'Stay home, save lives' message is absolutely critical right now, and this new campaign highlights the very real and serious pressure the NHS and frontline workers are under.

“We know that lockdown fatigue is setting in and we need this campaign to remind the public why they must stay at home and follow the rules – it is the easiest way they can help and will make the biggest difference.”

The campaign comes as national lockdowns in each of the four UK nations are causing new cases of Covid to fall – while deaths continue to trend upwards. New cases have fallen most days since they peaked at 68,053 across the UK on 8 January – whereas the deadliest day in the pandemic so far occured this Wednesday, 20 January, when 1,820 deaths were recorded.

Lorna, a Covid patient who appears in the advertising, said: “I really felt like this is it last week, this is as scary as it gets. We need to take a good look and get a reality check. This is real. My mum was one of the disbelievers and she’s actually upstairs, she’s on the next floor up. We owe our NHS more than we can ever imagine.”

The challenges faced by government comms teams and their agency partners were illustrated this week when the government agreed to pull a radio ad that stated joggers were “highly likely” to have Covid-19. While the message was intended to stress the importance of maintaining physical distance from others when outside, it appears to have fallen foul of Advertising Codes rules on misleading claims.

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