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How the Government and Media are Approaching ‘the Idiots Out There’

People like to moan about the media industry and blame them for so much of our social ills. And much of it, frankly, is justified. Sound bite journalism in a ratings world can’t help but reward and propagate those things that shock us.

That same supply and demand cycle stretches to social media, where algorithms that prioritize engagement can’t help but propagate the information that makes us feel something. Without mechanisms to filter out the lies, people consume and spread falsehoods (impulsively), usually intending to “help people see what’s really happening”. WTAF.

And the government charged with the public good can’t keep up with the tech on social and digital. Nor are politicians incentivized to curtail the entities or TV news networks that focus on the wrong things or, say, feed falsehoods. That’s how we find ourselves screwing up the environment, bickering in heated factions and now, overlooking a virus before it’s too late to prevent. TV and social made a reality TV star president, afterall.

And while there are literally millions of decent, well-intentioned, creative people who’ve dedicated their lives to delivering amazing stories through these media platforms, when is the last time America saw a positive, life saving movement ripple through all sides of the media industrial complex?

That is exactly what’s happening now on TV.

According to TV ad measurement company iSpot.tv, between the U.S. Census and the CDC, Governmental Organizations accounted for 4.6 billion TV impressions over the last two weeks. Together they accounted for 1.6% of all TV ad deliveries.

FOX News, which spent the first weeks of March dismissing the pandemic as fake news and hysteria is now the network delivering the most reach for PSAs. That’s incredibly important because there is evidence its viewers still think the pandemic is fake news . FOX Network Group, to its credit, also spearheaded a #stayhome benefit special across its network footprints with Elton John, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keyes, and other folks whose faces you won’t see on FOX News.

March 19-April 1 — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have amassed more impressions than any brand on TV, making up 1.04% of all impressions across American TV households in the timeframe. The CDC is pumping out a lot of national and local creatives across different demographics. 16% of Ad targeting is focused on local areas presumably where awareness is an issue (*cough, the remaining states not on lock down, cough*).

The distribution of PSA TV impressions fall in line with the overall number of network impressions during the same period with the exception of TNT which has delivered the 5th most impressions yet, stacking 22nd for networks in ad delivery in the last two weeks.

Beyond the government, NBCU brought together celebrities to do at home tips under “The More You Know” for a TV and streaming campaign with companies like Inscape and VIZIO Ads kicking in inventory and infrastructure.

ViacomCBS and Ad Council dropped #alonetogether which, in typical Viacom fashion, is a multi-platform masterpiece on the value and virtue of social distancing.


TV wasn’t the only place for PSAs either. According to CreatorIQ, overall engagements on PSA/information-sharing posts by creators with over 50,000 followers have passed 1.5 billion at this point, with more than 480,000 posts sharing safety/PSA info since January. The volume of attention to those posts maps directly to the spread of cases as well.

Below, CreatorIQ provides looks at trending terms around PSA-related posts from influencers with at least 50,000 followers.

While the social influencers and celebrities have taken to Instagram to encourage each other to #stayhome, that hastag, used some 12 million times already, will be full of selfies, babies, and gratuitous breasts. But, at least that is “a thing”. And collectively, the platforms that helped us get into this mess are also the very entities that will help us get through these times.

The task at hand is ultimately delivering knowledge that can save lives and accelerate the precautions to those Larry David calls, “the idiots out there”. This week, most everyone is doing pretty, pretty good.