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Mr Bean Joins The COVID-19 Comms Machine

By Maanya Sachdeva 23 June 2020

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If there’s one thing you should be doing right now, it’s staying at home. Should your privilege allow you to continue social distancing and isolating—even as the world eases lockdown restrictions that were imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19—please use it. In fact, this is a good time to remind the world (including India) that, with over 9 million COVID-19 cases across the globe, the pandemic is not over. To that end, please continue to wash your hands for twenty seconds, use hand sanitisers, wear masks or face coverings, urge governments and regulatory bodies.

Governments and health bodies have also been busy finding clever (or at least clickbait-y) ways to get your attention and reinforce their public health messaging. A whole host of Indian and International celebrities have been roped in to help spread awareness about this disease that has claimed over 4,00,000 lives globally. But the choice of iconic comedy character Mr Bean—created and portrayed by UK comedian Rowan Atkinson—for the World Health Organisation’s latest COVID-19 PSA campaign has caused a bit of a stir on Twitter. And lots of LOLs. And, in some cases, actual rage.

The wildly popular (even more so, in India, Indonesia and Brazil apparently) cartoon character issues a series of bullet points about staying safe and healthy during the pandemic. A 30-second clip, it features Mr. Bean (voiced by creator, Rowan Atkinson) struggling with a screen displaying a number of bullet points, with the title “Mr. Bean’s Essential COVID-19 Checklist!” When Mr. Bean finally gets things to work, viewers can review now run-of-the-mill advice on keeping the virus at bay.

Before we get into the reactions—the good, the bad and the bean..err, mean —we’d like to draw your attention to this Quartz piece ranking 17 celebrity PSAs from awful to acceptable to amazing. And humbly submit our own rating of the Mr. Bean PSA based on author Adam Epstein’s criteria. Epstein grades these celebrity PSAs on a scale of 1-10 based on three things: value of information, creativity and delivery. And we’ll do the same for WHO’s latest campaign – why mess with a good thing right?

1. Value of Information: Mr. Bean covers the basics but none of this new information. In fact, some of it is laid out quite generally—keep your hands clean (but how long should you wash them for, Mr. Bean?!), be kind…Okay. We’re giving this a 2.5 for value of information.

2. Creativity: The public service announcement is in collaboration with not-for-profit agency, Project Everyone and Tiger Aspect Productions and it’s minimal. But it gets the work done. It’s fine. We’re giving this a 5.8 for creativity.

3. Delivery: Signature Mr. Bean. A hat-tip to Rowan Atkinson and a solid 8.6 for delivery.

That gives it a total of 16.9, giving it a slight edge over ESPN’s #OneTeam PSA. If you’d like to check Twitter before deciding for yourself, that’s cool too. Here are some noteworthy reactions to the Mr. Bean PSA:

Meanwhile, Mr Bean is also the main suspect in a botched painting restoration case in Spain.

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