£500,000 covid campaign in North East to help save lives and combat 'sometimes complex and confusing national messaging'
North East councils have spent half a million pounds hiring a marketing firm to launch a public information campaign on Covid-19 lockdown rules.
Newcastle-based Drummond Central has been given the major contract to run a “comprehensive communications campaign” explaining the restrictions for people living in South Tyneside, Sunderland, Northumberland, County Durham, Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside.
The LA7 group of local authorities said that the marketing project, funded through £500,000 awarded from the Government, could help save lives after “sometimes complex and confusing national messaging” about what rules are in place in our region.
Boris Johnson and Government ministers have been repeatedly slammed for getting lockdown rules wrong on a number of occasions, while last week a massive advert was placed in Newcastle city centre incorrectly warning that the area was under ‘Very High’ Tier 3 restrictions.
However, critics have questioned the purpose of the new marketing campaign and claimed there was “seemingly very little transparency or scrutiny” around the decision.
A spokesperson for the LA7 said that the campaign would help residents “make conscious decisions and to take positive action” to bring down infection rates.
They also confirmed that the money was granted from the Department for Health and Social Care specifically for regional communications, rather than coming from a wider Covid funding pot, and that the marketing campaign will run after the end of the national lockdown on December 2 when the tiered system of different local restrictions returns.
The spokesperson said: “Following ongoing negotiations with the Department for Health and Social Care, the LA7 partners secured funding from Government to support work to tackle the spread of Covid-19 in the North East. One element of this was £500,000 to deliver a comprehensive communications campaign to ensure communities and businesses are supported to understand what the restrictions mean for them and how they can play their part.
“We recognise that the last eight months have been tough on everyone, with sometimes complex and confusing national messaging, combined by the uncertainty of what lies in the future which is challenging.
“This funding will be used to undertake detailed behavioural insights work to really understand how people in our region are feeling, and how we can support them to live their lives whilst reducing their risk to the virus.
“This will play a crucial part in shaping and developing a robust and insight-led marketing campaign that builds on the success so far, working with our communities to make conscious decisions and to take positive action to keep themselves and others safe, and ultimately save more lives.”
He added: “Our aim is that by supporting people to make changes, we can continue to reduce the spread of coronavirus in our communities, allowing us all to return to a more normal way of life. This is a significant piece of work and a challenge that affects every one of us.
“Award-winning North East based creative agency Drummond Central won this commission through a competitive procurement process.”
The region’s Liberal Democrats, however, claimed it was “not entirely clear” why the campaign is needed or how the contract was awarded.
Coun Nick Cott, leader of the Lib Dem opposition on Newcastle City Council, said: “Effective public communication and messaging is essential in a public health crisis, and we have grave concerns that the Government has not been up to the task from the outset.
“However, it is not entirely clear why the LA7 have asked for this funding, how it adds value at regional level beyond the key national public health messaging, what the local messaging will look like,and how they will ensure it won’t complicate what have sometimes been mixed messages coming from London.”