Alberta government spends $2.5M on unusual COVID-19 ad campaign

CALGARY — COVID Loves, a highly unusual ad featuring a character coined by many as ‘Uncle COVID’, had a total budget of $2.5 million, Alberta Health said Thursday.

The ad campaign, aimed at Albertans aged 40 and below, was intended to teach lessons about how easily COVID-19 could be spread in everyday situations.

The initiative included a series of videos featuring an individual wearing a COVID-virus mask complete with freakish grimace attending holiday gatherings, dancing and hugging it out with friends and loved ones.

Alberta Health hasn’t said if COVID Loves has been the most expensive ad campaign during the pandemic but the initiative also included a website that showed off all the places “Uncle COVID” loved to go, including birthday parties, baby showers and even wine tastings.

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In all, the province says it spent $15.4 million on all of its COVID-19 education, testing promotions and support literature for various demographics.

“This includes six phases of a comprehensive campaign designed to inform Albertans of the latest information about public health measures throughout the pandemic,” said Tom McMillan, assistant director of communications for Alberta Health, in a release.

“These campaigns have made extensive use of online display, social media, television, radio, billboards, and other print collateral.”

However, McMillan says that even with the cost, the campaigns have had a considerable effect on sharing the appropriate messaging.

“The campaigns have exceeded the scope and reach of any previous Alberta government advertising campaigns.”

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