Dukes County is working in conjunction with Cape and Island government and health officials to launch a vaccination campaign that will target the hundreds of thousands of seasonal visitors soon to arrive in our resort communities.
At a Dukes County Commission meeting Wednesday, commission chair Christine Todd said the campaign — which will include broadcast advertisements, posters, outreach to local businesses, and various incentives for getting vaccinated — will focus largely on the 20- to 30-year-old age group that comprises the majority of the Island’s seasonal workforce (although the messaging will reach a broad swath of the seasonal population).
She said the messaging should look to reach across the entire Northeast corridor — from Washington, D.C., all the way to Boston. “Those are the people that are coming here. We want to use social media to project the messaging to lots of people from different areas who come here during the summer — it’s basically a very aggressive campaign to encourage people who come here to get vaccinated,” Todd said.
In order to relate more to the target audience, Todd suggested using local influencers to disseminate the messaging, and including local landmarks and iconic Island experiences in any media advertising.
“Taking iconic images that really bring people joy — experiences that people want to have here with other people, and the message ‘get vaccinated.’ The same thing applies to the Cape with their particular iconic experiences. You want to go to the fair again? Get vaccinated. You want to go to the Flying Horses, get vaccinated,” she said.
Various Island entities have already agreed to air advertisements promoting the vaccine, such as the Steamship Authority (SSA), Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, and Martha’s Vineyard Airport.
The SSA said they would play the commercial on their vessels as people are crossing to and from the Vineyard. Todd said airport officials agreed to play any promotional video the county comes up with in the terminal building, and potentially even on the planes during flights.
She also suggested reaching out to local businesses to encourage them to offer incentives for customers who are fully vaccinated, such as special dining or shopping experiences, or some kind of financial incentive. “Some restaurants have talked about setting up VIP sections where you can still get into the restaurants without proof of vaccination, but if you want to sit in this special area, show us your card,” Todd said.
According to Todd, the entire initiative hopes to loop in Barnstable County and other mainland areas, along with Nantucket County, to work collaboratively on messaging ideas. “We really want this to be a whole Cape and Islands effort,” Todd said.
Commissioner Peter Wharton wondered whether any outreach has been done to Island business owners who are going to be employing a large portion of the campaign’s target audience. “We should be encouraging businesses to get cohorts of their employees vaccinated — that’s a huge thing, to be able to say, ‘All our staff has been vaccinated,’” he said.
Todd noted she has been in touch with Island trade and business associations, such as the Oak Bluffs Association, the Edgartown Board of Trade, and the Tisbury Business Association. All are “100 percent behind the idea,” she said.
“Their major concern is the employees of their towns. Having the short staff people have now, if their staff is not fully vaccinated, they risk their staff members not being able to come into work for seven days if they are exposed,” she said.
Commissioner Keith Chatinover said he has seen some incentive ideas from bars and restaurants to provide a free drink or free food to encourage people to get the vaccine. “It creates a community around doing something good, which I think is really important,” Chatinover said.
As the entire campaign is fleshed out more, Todd said, commissioners will work to come up with a budget that can be contributed to the overall effort, which Todd estimated would cost at least $100,000.
“These are professional advertising agencies, so it might be close to $200,000 in total. So how much are we going to chip in?” she wondered.
Commissioner Tristan Israel asked whether money from the M.V. License Plate auction could be used for this initiative, as it’s earmarked for economic development and tourism.
County manager Martina Thornton said there is about $80,000 in the fund, and the public messaging campaign would fall directly in line with that money’s intended purpose. Thornton said commissioners would have to move any funds they wish to spend out of the license plate fund and into the economic development line in the county budget.
Wharton warned commissioners of overinvesting in an overly broad marketing campaign, and stressed the importance of utilizing trusted messengers on-Island, such as doctors, business owners, and other local people to promote the vaccine. “This has to be from the grassroots. It has to come from trusted members of the community,” Wharton said.
Commissioner Don Leopold suggested looking at other examples of advertising campaigns, and potentially utilizing premade templates, so as to not “reinvent the wheel.”
“To start from scratch with our own advertising campaign, even with $200,000 — I at least want to have a database of best practices,” he said.