United Ways of Iowa

The Challenge

Three years into the onset of the COVID pandemic, fatigue entrenched our society. People had been bombarded with misinformation, tuned out confusing guidance on who should get vaccinated and how often, and received a deluge of divisive opinions that kept vaccination rates low. Meanwhile, COVID continued to spread, people continued to get sick and suffer serious complications, and vaccination remained as a critical, lifesaving, and underutilized prevention tool.

Knowing that vaccination had become extremely polarized, United Ways of Iowa (UWIA) wanted to develop creative campaigns and messaging that supported and reinforced fact-based vaccine messaging without shaming or judgment. The campaigns would cover large swaths of the state, with the goal of increasing awareness and promoting the effectiveness of vaccines.

UWIA provides many valuable programs and services to communities across Iowa. Because of this, they are seen as a trusted, reliable, and responsible resource that always acts in the best interest of those they serve.

Armed with a grant focused on increasing vaccination rates in Iowa, UWIA selected de Novo as their creative and marketing partner to spread the word about the importance of vaccination.

Our Approach

Based on secondary research, guidance from the CDC and other trusted sources, and findings from previous campaigns, we knew that simple, clear messages worked best to engage and prompt action.

Tapping into our behavioral marketing approach, we investigated what motivated people to get vaccinated and subsequently developed messaging that directly addressed people’s attitudes about vaccination and counteracted misinformation.

We connected with people using real, everyday situations affected by the COVID vaccine, inviting individuals to talk to their doctor and do what was best for them.

We leveraged the United Ways of Iowa’s status as a trusted institution to establish credibility and familiarity.

We also phased out the word “booster,” instead repositioning the COVID vaccine as an annual routine–like the flu shot–and a normal part of effective healthcare. This aligned with federal and state messaging and removed the confusion and ambiguity about who should get vaccinated, when they should get vaccinated, and how often.

The Work

We developed three campaigns targeted at different populations across Iowa:

● Rural communities
● Urban areas
● Geographically neutral

Each campaign had its own concept and behavioral approach:

Lifelong Healthcare reminded people that vaccines are a normal part of healthcare from birth throughout life. Our creative work showed people getting vaccinated against various diseases throughout their lives, emphasizing the positive impact vaccines have had in fostering immunity and keeping people healthy.

Family Traditions tapped into the comforting aspect of nostalgia, connecting time-honored traditions with healthy habits that are passed down in our families. The messaging reminded people to get vaccinated in order to protect their loved ones and continue to cherish the moments that matter.

Why Risk It? showcased all the fun and productive aspects of life that are quickly upended when you get sick, leveraging our human fear of missing out (FOMO). The campaign situated vaccines as an effective tool to avoid serious illness and avoid major disruptions in a person’s life.

As this was intended to be a large overall campaign covering much of Iowa, we developed a prioritization matrix and assigned counties by risk level. We focused on priority populations with low vaccine rates, high poverty, and other risk factors to promote health equity.

We tiered media support based on assigned level with priority counties receiving both traditional and digital media support and lower priority counties receiving digital support.

We co-branded our spots with local United Way chapters where relevant to maintain cohesion and consistency.

We also translated one campaign to Spanish, ensuring we directly addressed counties with high populations of Spanish speakers.

The Results

The campaigns ran in most Iowa counties for eight weeks during the fall and early winter, garnering more than 49 million impressions and three million engagements. Costs per impression were below platform benchmarks and engagement rates performed above benchmarks across all campaigns and platforms. The overall engagement rate was an impressive 6.25%, with the Spanish campaign posting a particularly high engagement rate.

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overall engagement rate

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The result was a suite of campaigns that helped spread awareness and connect with people on a human level, all in service to healthier communities.