February 8, 2011 in City

‘WashYourHandsington’ poster draws mockery, attention

By The Spokesman-Review
Courtesy State photo

With a nod to the 1950s, the state Department of Health has a campaign to fight flu that almost begs for mockery.
(Full-size photo)

Watch the Department of Health’s video at the Spin Control blog.

OLYMPIA – The state Department of Health has a message for flu season: WashYourHandsington.

The agency’s campaign reminding people to wash up, cover their coughs and get a flu shot is summed up in a slogan that puts “Your Hands” between the “Wash” and the “ington” in the state’s name. It comes complete with posters reminiscent of a 1950s tourism campaign, a radio jingle and an Internet video.

Cheesy? A bit silly? Easy to make fun of? Yes to all, says Tim Church, department communications director. Radio talk show hosts have made fun of it, and comedian George Lopez did a takeoff.

But it gets the point across, Church says. When people call to say they don’t like this campaign about washing your hands and getting a flu shot, he contends “they may not like it, but they’re getting the message.”

A department employee came up with WashYourHandsington, and an ad agency decided to run with it on a 1950s theme.

The Internet video uses the campy radio jingle as background with images of sudsy hands clapping and smiling people at recognizable Washington locales. It has had 35,000 hits since it went up in late December, which is more than most of the staid videos other departments post on the YouTube channel for Washington state government.

Funding for the campaign came from a portion of some $300,000 the federal government gave the state for flu prevention. The department also used the money to do research, including focus groups to determine why people don’t get their flu shots and how to increase the rates of vaccination.

The department could’ve done a boring public service announcement with someone saying “Hi, I’m a doctor. Get your flu shot,” Church said. But then who’d be talking about it?

The department printed about 10,000 copies of the “WashYourHandsington” posters to be distributed to local health districts, clinics and doctors’ offices, as well as postcards and stickers. “I’ve heard some people are framing them and putting them up. They’ll last longer that way than just pinned up on some bulletin board.”

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