Walgreens’ annual flu vaccine campaign took on a different urgency in 2020.
With the COVID-19 pandemic occurring alongside a typical flu season, some health experts are concerned that hospitals could become overwhelmed with patients this fall and winter. The need to get people vaccinated against the flu this year is even greater.
Walgreens took into account the heightened concern about getting sick and urged people to protect themselves and their “crew” in its campaign, Defend Your Crew Against the Flu.
Pat McLean, SVP and chief marketing officer at Walgreens, said the Defend campaign builds off the success from last year’s flu effort, which also focused on getting vaccinated to protect others.
“People care about their own health but also care about the health of people they love and the people they care about. That was the key insight behind the approach we took last year, which was a successful campaign for us,” McLean said. “When we were looking at what to do this year, in the midst of COVID-19, that insight rang true even more. People are sheltering in place and everybody has their own bubble, so the idea was protecting not just yourself, but people you’re surrounding yourself with during this unprecedented time.”
The TV spot for the campaign will debut Thursday during a WNBA game. Walgreens is also launching a comprehensive digital, social and content effort. McLean said the campaign is including a lot more content this year because there will probably be more questions than usual. Walgreens worked with WPP on the campaign.
The commercial was filmed largely remote, with only a limited production crew on set to film and other staff, including the director and marketers, working remotely. McLean also said the team found families and groups of people who had already been quarantining together to film in the spot.
“We wanted to make sure we weren’t unnecessarily intermingling actors with one another and were careful to make sure we were only having people together who were together during the pandemic and sheltering in place together,” he said.
The commercial is also meant to show viewers that Walgreens is a safe place to receive a flu shot, McLean said. The ad depicts a Walgreens pharmacist in full protective gear, including a mask, gown and face shield, giving a vaccine to a masked customer.
Walgreens was also mindful about including people of color both in front of and behind the camera. The spot was directed by Malik Sayeed and the voiceover was done by actress Samira Wiley.
“It was really important that all of the crews [in the ad] represented the world and represented America,” McLean said. “It was very deliberate. We wanted to make sure we represented a diverse set of crews so that every person who is thinking about getting a flu shot can see themselves in it.”
This campaign is Walgreens’ third effort done completely remotely since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
McLean said filming remotely comes with challenges, but the major lessons learned have been to prepare as much as possible before the shoot, like ensuring every prop and costume is there and capturing as much content as possible in one day.
“Collaboration is even more important in this environment,” he said. “We’re using all this technology to have the interplay between the director and agency and marketer and make sure it’s still a fluid and dynamic process. We learned to make sure at an early stage that we had the right relationships with all those people and that the rules of engagement were clear upfront. We wanted to replicate that on-set feeling of collaboration between all the creative people participating in the work.”