Budweiser, other brands urge people to get COVID vaccine

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Budweiser and other brands are urging customers to get the COVID-19 vaccine — a move they’re betting will also give their businesses a shot in the arm.

Budweiser released an ad Wednesday called “Good Times are Coming.” At the start, a screen flashes the words “Remember this?” The ad goes on to show a series of still photographs of people drinking beer together and having a good time.

The ad ends with a screen that says, “Good times are coming. Now we have a shot,” as Jimmy Durante’s “I’ll Be Seeing You” plays in the background.

The Bud spot is part of a larger push from the nonprofit Ad Council, which launched one of the largest public education efforts in US history to get people comfortable with taking the vaccine. 

The campaign includes a series of commercials featuring former presidents, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and George W. Bush urging Americans to get vaccinated.

Companies like Google, Walgreens, Target and NBCUniversal are likewise getting into the act with their own Ad Council spots.

Earlier this week, Google released a now-viral ad called “Get back to what you love,” which has been viewed more than 6.5 million times on YouTube. It opens with emotional piano music, showing a Google search box with terms like “quarantine,” “lockdown” and “school closings” being typed, with the now-familiar sounds of cheering for first responders in the background.

The ad then transitions to deleting the “sweat” part of “sweatpants” and changing the “virtual happy hour” to just “happy hour,” as the piano music speeds up. It ends with someone typing “covid vaccine near me.” 

Google’s ad, which was created in-house by its Google Creative Lab, aired on national TV during the March Madness Final Four games and premiered on YouTube in March.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, Walgreens launched its campaign dubbed, “This is Our Shot,” with singer John Legend. The ad is meant to “remind Americans that the vaccine is the nation’s opportunity to help bring an end to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Walgreens said in a statement.

NBC News also launched a public service announcement, helping Americans see if they are eligible and helping them locate a vaccination center through a website, PlanYourVaccine.com. Discount retailer Target said this week that it will donate $1 million to nonprofits offering free and discounted rides to vaccine appointments through Lyft.

This year, brands have been more tentative and cautious about the kinds of ads they run during the pandemic. This year’s Super Bowl saw a host of big-name perennial advertisers including Budweiser opting out due to the environment and the difficulty in striking the right tone.

But the vaccine rollout gives brands a chance to communicate purpose and optimism, according to Tim Calkins, a marketing professor at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

“There’s a big focus right now among companies and brands around the idea of having a bigger purpose than just making money,” Calkins told CNBC. “If you want to be seen as giving back and contributing to society, this is a pretty safe place to go.”

Once vaccine rates ramp up, Calkins added that the shift in advertising will go from informative to celebratory.

“It’s going to be all about celebration; the resumption of life. There’s going to be another big pivot coming up,” he said. 

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