COVID-19

Local governments and companies encourage masks in absence of federal policy

Kristin Schwab Jul 13, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
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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
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

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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