The best medicine: Around the world in clever Covid-19 adverts

Couch potatoes to the rescue in new German coronavirus-awareness campaign.
Couch potatoes to the rescue in new German coronavirus-awareness campaign. © Screengrab, German Federal Government website

A tongue-in-cheek Covid-19 public service announcement from Germany elevating "lazy as racoons" couch potatoes to certified heroes became a social media sensation over the weekend. Many coronavirus-awareness adverts rely on fear or strike a sombre note with now-familiar tropes – the rising drone shots of empty cityscapes and swell of wistful music. But another genre sets itself apart with humour or clever takes on the way we live now, often with an eye to reaching young people. FRANCE 24 takes a look at some of the world's best.


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This instant classic went viral after German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, shared it on Twitter on Saturday with the hashtag #besonderehelden or #veryspecialheroes.

It features one Anton Lehmann, now an old man in the future, harking back to his youth. "It was winter 2020. Everyone's eyes were on us. I was 22 years old, a mechanical engineering student in Chemnitz, when the second wave hit," he recounts. "When the invisible danger threatened everything we held dear, we summoned all our courage and did what was expected of us – the only right thing," Lehmann says, as the soundtrack swells to a climax before suddenly scratching to a halt. "Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Lazy as raccoons," he explains.

The young Lehmann spends the rest of the clip scarfing junk food and watching television. "Our sofa was our frontline and our patience our weapon," his future self narrates.

The viral video even reached Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. "Have you seen Germany’s new ads about Covid-19? It doesn’t matter what language you speak, the message is clear," Trudeau tweeted on Monday, "You can be the hero in the fight against this virus – and you don’t even have to do that much."

A second public service announcement (PSA) in the German series shows Lehmann's wife, Luise, recounting her version of 2020, as the young Lehmann play-salutes her from their bed with a drumstick out of a takeaway bucket of fried chicken.


This Russian ad similarly calls on the country's football fans to embrace domesticity in the face of Covid-19. "Even if you are a football fan, stay at home. Be a man and stay strong!" as director Roman Kulepetov put it.

South Africa

Advertising firm Havas gives recalcitrant anti-maskers a licking with this South African clip that makes the risks all too real as a man blithely uses an automatic teller machine... with his tongue. "If you don't wear a mask, you might as well do this. Don't be a #Covidiot." The series features other videos along the same lines; one involves elevator buttons, the other the slurping of an escalator handrail. A disclaimer reassures viewers that no Covidiots were harmed in the making of the dramatisation.


The hard-hit Lombardy Region of Italy called on football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic to deploy his playfully supercilious persona for good in this short message after the AC Milan striker tested positive for coronavirus in September. "The virus challenged me and I won, but you are not Zlatan," the cocky footballer declares, before slipping on a face mask.


To encourage viewers to stay at home and save lives, Britain's Channel 4 dared to ask: "When was the last time you did something that really mattered with your arse?"


Tehran-based actor Danial Kheirikhah went more high-brow when his country was hit hard by Covid-19. This homemade hand-washing PSA features Kheirikhah conducting an orchestra over Brahms's Hungarian Dance No. 1.


Some funny messaging is simplicity itself. This Croatian beer advert keeps the social distancing messaging to a single awkward look.


Other clever coronavirus-era ads are a lot more elaborate. This car commercial takes couch-potato heroes on a vicarious journey through the Australian landscape that would fill an afternoon. "We'd usually invite you to enjoy the open road. Instead, we're bringing the open road to you," Audi Australia proposes. "Unwind at home with a four-hour long drive of the New South Wales countryside in the all-new Audi A6 Sedan." Equal parts "Vorsprung durch technik" and "Are we there yet?".


The Vietnamese health department used cute cartoon characters and a mercilessly catchy tune to get the mask-up-and-wash-your-hands message out. The advert got the thumbs up from British TV comic John Oliver, who featured the video on his "Last Week Tonight" show in March."Yes! Vietnam made a song about washing your hands to prevent coronavirus infection and it absolutely slaps!" he gushed. "That's a genuine club banger right there!"


Not to be outdone, the government of Singapore also went the earworm route, releasing this catchy coronavirus-fighting music video, "Singapore Be Steady", featuring actor Gurmit Singh reprising his popular character Phua Chu Kang.


Coronavirus hit early and hard in New York City, that US hub of advertising talent and star power – so naturally, the city has been a wellspring of (often funny) coronavirus public service messaging.

In this PSA, famously ageless actor Paul Rudd says New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recruited him to get out the "wear a mask" message to millennials. "He's like, 'Paul, you gotta help. What are you, like, 26?' And I didn't correct him," Rudd explains.


New York also recruited "Friday the 13th" slasher Jason Voorhees to deliver a simple message full of pathos from behind his iconic hockey mask: "Wearing a mask can be scary. Not wearing one can be deadly. Wear a mask, New York."

USA/United Nations

When the United Nations put out a call for creative public health messages to stem the spread of coronavirus, Brooklyn-based director Josh Cohen responded with this minimalist offering, "How not to touch your face in contagious times".


Meanwhile, the Geneva-based World Health Organization, the United Nations Foundation, and "Despicable Me" animation studio Illumination teamed up for a public service announcement starring Gru and his Minions. Actor Steve Carell voices tender-hearted villain Gru's appeal: "Remember, we're all in this together. But totally separate!"

The laughter, like the pandemic, is universal.

















































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