Wisconsin Department of Health Services COVID-19 Prevention Campaign

Slowing the spread of COVID-19 with a quick-change approach

From the first, the COVID-19 virus has evolved rapidly. So, KW2 has stayed light on our feet. We leveraged more than 30 years of government and public health marketing expertise to conduct regional research, pivot our media and messaging, and help every Wisconsinite—from the scared to the skeptical—educate and protect themselves during an unprecedented global pandemic.


Change is the status quo for COVID-19 communicators. So, we adopted a responsive approach to research and campaign development that helped KW2’s strategic and creative teams rapidly adjust to new data and changing attitudes. It started with listening sessions with public health partners across the state. Then we grounded campaign messages in the lived experiences of Wisconsin’s disparate communities using input from our Diversity, Inclusion and Sensitivity Advisory Committee. And as the challenges faced by Wisconsinites evolved, KW2 researchers organized virtual focus groups and online surveys to uncover audience beliefs and behaviors, understand safety measure and vaccine hesitancy, and adjust our integrated marketing campaign’s tone and tactics.


Within weeks, we launched You Stop the Spread, a prevention campaign that used crowdsourced content from real Wisconsinites to promote safety measures like social distancing, wearing a mask in public, and getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Then we supported these efforts with focused messaging for communities of color and rural residents. KW2 created toolkits for small business owners and web content for the Department of Health Services website. We drove neighbors to nearby vaccination sites and leveraging a lineup of social influencers—from Green Bay Packers to outdoor sportsmen and local Wisconsin leaders—to reach audiences across the state. Next, we featured Wisconsin doctors in a series of regionally-targeted ads that combat vaccine hesitancy with trusted local advocates, easy-to-understand vaccine facts, and compelling stories from healthcare’s frontlines. In all, KW2 has created more than 1,000 campaign assets, including print and digital ads, social posts, fact sheets, videos, billboards, and bus wraps. And we’re not done yet.


Our real-time flexibility has resulted in important marketing and public health achievements for our state partners. By December of 2020, 76% of Wisconsin residents surveyed were aware of COVID-19 safety measures—thanks to the campaign’s 345 million media impressions. Our ads were seen by Wisconsin residents around 59 times each, driving more than 800,000 visitors to the Department of Health Services website. During the campaign, nearly half the visitors to FEMA’s Milwaukee vaccination sites were residents of neighborhoods that received focused media efforts. And as the campaign’s message has shifted to address vaccine hesitancy, we’ve earned over a million site visits and an additional 465 million media impressions—nearly 34 million of which are added value.

When Wisconsin’s public health needs evolve again, KW2’s COVID-19 prevention campaign efforts will evolve, too—inspiring behavior changes that may help save lives during the biggest public health crisis of our lifetime.

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