Find the latest episode of "The Uncertain Hour" here. Listen
COVID-19

Local governments and companies encourage masks in absence of federal policy

Kristin Schwab Jul 13, 2020
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
A person walks by graffiti encouraging mask wearing in April in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
COVID-19

Local governments and companies encourage masks in absence of federal policy

Kristin Schwab Jul 13, 2020
Heard on:
A person walks by graffiti encouraging mask wearing in April in San Francisco. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

In May, New York launched a public competition for ads persuading people to wear masks. There were more than 600 entries. The winning ad plays off the iconic “I ❤ New York” slogan with an array of New Yorkers saying things like, “When we show up in a mask, we’re showing up for each other. Show your love for New York because New York loves you.”

California and Oregon have put out similar public service ads. And the Austin, Texas, Chamber of Commerce recently started sending this message: “A mask on each of us is a win for all of us.”

Science says wearing a mask is the best defense against the spread of COVID-19 until a vaccine is ready. But with no federal mask policy, the issue has become so tangled up in politics that it’s become difficult to get that message across. Now, local governments and companies are issuing their own ads to try and unmix the message.

Edward Russell, a professor of advertising at Syracuse University, said public service campaigns can work. Just think of “Don’t drink and drive” or Smokey Bear declaring “Only you can prevent forest fires.”

But masks aren’t forest fires, which most agree are bad. The battle over masks has become personal, so the messaging has to be personal, too.

“The message has to be fast and simple,” said Russell. “There has to be something in it for me.”

He said facts can be convincing, like showing how the virus spreads from one person to the next and how masks can help prevent that.

That’s the focus of Uber’s new TV commercial. The ad shows a series of peoples’ masked faces, with text underneath saying, “When you wear a mask, you protect Jin. Jin protects Chelsea. Chelsea protects Raphael.” The final line: “No mask, no ride.”

“Certainly brands do see an opportunity to strengthen that bond between them and their customers,” said Jim Nail, a marketing analyst at Forrester.

They also want to strengthen their bond with their workers, who in the end have to enforce the rules and take the heat from customers who don’t want to follow them.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

Read More

Collapse

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.