Council approves next round of COVID-19 vaccine ads

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Aug. 18—SALEM — State officials vowed to target a second round of advertising promoting the COVID-19 vaccine to residents under 40, along with racial, ethnic and underserved groups seen as more hesitant to get the shot.

Executive Councilor Cinde Warmington, D-Concord, opposed the $884,000 contract because Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette said it was too soon to know whether Gov. Chris Sununu would appear in these commercials.

"I can't say that one way or another. We are very early on in the process," Shibinette said when Warmington asked if Sununu would have a speaking role.

Warmington said the first round of ads starring Sununu and top state officials did little to raise New Hampshire's vaccination rate, which is among the top 10 in the nation but is last in New England.

"We need to treat this like the public health crisis that it is. @GovChrisSununu used the first $400k to run campaign ads promoting himself rather than using research-proven tactics to increase vaccine rates," Warmington said in a statement.

"I won't let another $884k go to waste for his political gain."

Brandon Pratt, Sununu's deputy communications director, sharply criticized Warmington's vote.

"It doesn't get more hypocritical than the @NHDems lobbing false & harmful claims that enough isn't being done to increase vaccine uptake, only for @CindeWarmington to vote against increased outreach to underserved populations; a shameful vote that toys w/public health," Pratt tweeted after this Executive Council meeting at Salem High School.

The partisan back-and-forth comes as Sununu considers whether to challenge Democrat Maggie Hassan for her U.S. Senate seat in 2022.

Independent polls show the race would be close. The same polls give Sununu high marks for how he's managed the state's battle against the pandemic.

Grants to pay for ads

Federal COVID-19 relief grants will pay for these public service announcements, to be purchased for the state by the marketing firm of GYK Antler LLC of Manchester.

The first ads, in April, were aimed at the general public because New Hampshire was still rolling out the state-managed delivery of the vaccine, said Jake Leon, HHS director of communications.

The first campaign included 13,000 ads on television and radio and 19,000 spots on websites. They will run through the end of this month.

Leon said the ads led to 75,000 visits to, where residents register for their shots.

The state now has updated information on those hesitant about getting the vaccine, which will enable the new ads to be more targeted, he said.

HHS Commissioner Shibinette said it made sense for the initial ads to feature the three leaders in the state-run fight against COVID-19 — State Epidemiologist Benjamin Chan, Sununu and herself.

"When we look across this county, you see other states that took very similar paths when it comes to those PSAs," Shibinette said, citing both red- and blue-state governors who appeared in their own ads.

"We are not unique."

Now that the COVID-19 state of emergency has ended, the new commercials will feature "real stories" from the vaccinated as well as from doctors and nurses who will talk about why everyone who's medically able should get the vaccine, Leon said.

Last month, the New Hampshire Democratic Party said it confirmed through a Right-to-Know Law request that Sununu's office had asked for the governor to be featured in those first ads.

Warmington noted Facebook required ads on its platform to be labeled "political content" because the governor was in them.

Those disclaimers only made the digital ads even less likely to be effective, Warmington said.

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