The federal government's COVID-19 vaccination campaign (Image: Australian government)

The last thing Australia needs right now, as the Delta variant whips through Sydney, is a bandaid solution. But that’s exactly what we got. Bandaids. On anonymous arms.

Shelve for a minute the appalling mismanagement of the vaccine rollout and the fact that even if people were magically motivated to get the jab, so many of them actually can’t.

The rollout is one thing, the vaccine hesitancy another. The stats show that even if the government builds it, many won’t come. That’s why some sort of convincing ad campaign is needed.

We got “arm yourself”.

“Arm yourself” is the catchcry of the new ad, in step with the federal government’s tendency to militarise everything. To wargame it.

Where we needed emotion, empathy, inspiration, humour and humanity, we got faceless mundanity.

There’s clear science around how good health communication works.

A recent World Economic Forum pointed out the obvious fact that poor communication in a pandemic costs lives. It also highlighted the role of empathy. This PLOS ONE study emphasises the need for emotional, first-person narratives. This British Medical Journal article talks about the need for understand hesitancy, addressing it, and responding to individual concerns.

To break through, vaccine promotion needs to outweigh the bullshit being circulated online. It needs more heft to shunt out the hyperfocus on the rare ill effects. It needs to motivate those who are complacent. It needs to, emotionally and physically, move people.

The Kiwis nail this stuff. Remember their police recruitment ad? Their vaccination material echoes that. It’s funny, it’s real, it has the ring of authenticity. The French version is hand-on-heart, moving stuff.

The UK one features Michael Caine and Elton John, ferchrissakes.

It’s rich and full of life — and relatable. Unlike Australia’s attempt, which reeks of unimaginative marketing types carrying out a tick-a-box exercise. Different-coloured arms — that’ll do it, chaps. It’s blancmange when we need bombe Alaska.

Ad guru Russel Howcroft wrote that we need a powerful message. Something to rally the troops. He also said a scare campaign could be part of that — and we do have that, now.

There’s a “graphic” — and Sydney-specific — ad that will hopefully harness what has already been shown to work: that an outbreak brings home the reality of the need for protection. Images of a woman gasping for breath (a woman who does not really look as though she’s in an eligible vaccination category, but still) could provide the motivation for some.

Meanwhile, why did the government gurus settle for a faceless Brady Bunch grid?

It’s as though they couldn’t think of an inspirational Australian who can get people to their feet, roaring. A sportsperson, perhaps — the essence of vitality and ambition. Someone who has been vaccinated, and talked about it publicly. Someone who embodied the value of a “fair go” by ensuring they didn’t skip the queue to get the jab.

A woman would be good, considering women are more likely to be hesitant. Maybe a First Nations woman who is deeply admired across the age spectrum. Yeah. Imagine if we could find someone like that to put a face to the campaign.