The Government’s Ebola and Chikungunya public education campaign is expected to be significantly boosted by a commitment of support from the Advertising Agencies Association of Jamaica (AAAJ). The organization’s President, Arnold Foote, Jr., has pledged to lobby members’ and clients’ support for the undertaking. Their input will include the establishment of a National Communications Task Force to formulate a plan of action to support the campaign. Mr. Foote’s commitment is in response to an appeal from Minister with Responsibility for Information, Senator the Hon. Sandrea Falconer, during her address at the AAAJ’s 2013 Media of the Year Awards Luncheon, held at the Terra Nova Hotel in St. Andrew, on October 22. Senator Falconer said the public education campaign forms part of the administration’s National Health Emergency Response to both viruses.
These, she reminded, entail a national clean-up initiative, currently underway, to reduce mosquito breeding sites, in the case of the Chikungunya Virus (Chik-V); and carrying out the “requisite and precautionary steps…to ensure that Ebola does not reach our shores.” The latter undertaking, she explained, involves training health workers and other first responders, and adequately equipping and preparing health facilities and ports of entry, adding that “public education will be an important plank in this fight.” “As a result of the spread of the Ebola disease from what many believed were the confines of West Africa, to the United States and Europe, the risk that it could reach Jamaica has increased. The recent death of an Ebola patient in Texas brings this deadly disease close to us and, thus, has caused the fear factor to go into overdrive. And with that, we are seeing more rumours and misinformation,” The Minister said. Senator Falconer contended that the public education campaign can “benefit significantly” from advertising industry stakeholders’ message design skills and creativity,” to ensure that accurate information is disseminated. “By applying your creative talents to craft messages with impact, you can help build the public awareness that is necessary to contain the Chik-V and prevent the entry of the Ebola virus to our shores.
The national campaign would definitely get a shot in the arm with creative input from the (industry’s) enormous talent…as we embark on designing and developing impactful warning messages,” she added. Noting that the sector manages billions of dollars of media space on behalf of clients, Senator Falconer said that the clients could be encouraged to re-assign some of their billboards, or advertising space in other media, “even for a month,” to help in conveying messages nationwide. “The Private Sector Organization of Jamaica (PSOJ) has already thrown its support behind (this) national initiative…and today, I call upon every single (advertising industry stakeholder) to join hands in this campaign. Some agencies have already reached out to us to help, and I thank them for their support of this important national cause,” the Minister added. Meanwhile, Mr. Foote indicated that, “…it’s safe to say that I will have a buy-in from the entire advertising agency association.” He said creation of the National Communications Task Force, with the assistance of the AAAJ’s Creative Club, will facilitate discussions on the information that needs to be disseminated, and development of the framework to do so. “The Advertising Agencies Association of Jamaica is 100 per cent behind anything that needs to be done. I will reach out to everybody, and I will have further discussions thereafter,” he assured.