HHS Plans ‘Large’ Paid COVID-19 Media Campaign

Will work with local media buyers

The Department of Health and Human Services is working on a “large” media campaign of purchased PSA’s related to the COVID-19 pandemic that will include local broadcasters and newspapers and will look to encourage states to use some of HHS’ money for their own paid campaigns.

That is according to a letter to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.) from Michael Caputo, HHS assistant secretary for public affairs. Manchin had headed a letter asking the Office of Management and Budget “to work with federal agencies throughout the government to increase advertising in local newspapers and on broadcast stations.” 

Broadcasters have already donated millions in coronavirus-related PSAs, but was also looking for the government to direct some of its relief money to paid media.

Caputo said that as a former radio talk show host he understood how vital local media is. He told Manchin the Ad Council had provided public health messages to local media outlets–which they have been running for free–but said the government would be opening its wallet.

“We are building a large campaign of purchased public-service announcements to keep Americans informed as the pandemic evolves and our country safely reopens. We are focused on working with small-to-medium-sized media placement companies who will buy ad space for a flat fee, not a commission,” Caputo said. He said by working with local media buyers with “unique relationships,” the HHS could work “more effectively” with those local outlets.

He also pointed out that HHS gets “significant funding” for public health purposes and pandemic response and it was looking for ways states could use some of those funds for state-level campaigns. He said “clear, reliable information is crucial to defeating the virus.”

“NAB has been advocating for federal advertising dollars to be directed to local broadcasters as part of pandemic relief efforts,” said National Association of Broadcasters SVP Ann Marie Cumming in response to Caputo’s letter. “NAB will continue to stay in close contact with HHS and provide more details to local broadcasters about the advertising initiative as they become available.”