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03.16.21 | By Bruno Correa
As public health conditions continue to improve and vaccine roll-outs in Los Angeles pave the way for an eventual return to normalcy, USC has been taking steps to promote safety and mask-wearing in preparation for in-person activities. Instead of a top-down approach, however, USC’s central administration collaborated with the Academy to commission a student-led marketing strategy. The Spread Care, Not COVID campaign includes campus building signage, digital media, and swag such as hoodies and masks, all while promoting compliance-and enthusiasm-for campus safety measures. The campaign’s vibrant and lively aesthetic is a welcome contrast to the grim landscape of COVID that often circulates the news.
“We wanted to make this not as something the school is asking us to do, but as something we are doing for ourselves and peers,” says Jenny Choi, Academy junior and team member.
Choi, who is currently living with her family in South Korea, was forced to fly home due to the pandemic. Dealing with the time zone differences, cultural detachment, and social isolation has been challenging, but when she heard about the possibility of getting involved to help students see safety not as an inconvenience but as a means of returning to campus, she immediately hopped on board.
“I hope the campaign sets up and embeds prosocial culture into our USC community while brightening up the process with a sense of humor and positivity,“ says Choi.
IYA student Mars Tan helped design and finalize Spread Care, Not COVID building signage
On March 16, the Spread Care, Not COVID banners will be flying high on-campus buildings: Iovine and Young Hall, Bovard College, Tudor Center, and Fertitta Hall. The student designs complement USC’s existing branding, allowing for a visually cohesive experience across University Park Campus.
The USC Bookstore will also feature campaign merch including Spread Care, Not COVID hoodies, masks and hand sanitizers designed by IYA student Eliza Glover. All profits from sales will be donated to the USC Student Relief Fund.
Spread Care, Not COVID was developed under the Academy’s signature Impact Lab, a semester-long extracurricular course that challenges students to apply their creativity and human-centered design strategies to a real-world challenge. Past clients include adidas, TOMS, Adobe, LAX, Mattel, and Samsung to name a few. This semester, the subject matter couldn’t have been more relevant to students: promoting safe social practices at USC in order to facilitate a safe return to campus.
“As desperate as I am to get back on campus, I wanted to find a way to help the situation,” says Choi.
Through hard work and a lot of blue-sky thinking, the students envisioned a multifaceted effort to reach out to USC students across a spectrum of mediums and voices, utilizing culturally-relevant memes, apps, music, art, 3D projection mapping, and even a gamification strategy to motivate students, grab their attention, remind them to wear masks, practice social distancing, and more. The team worked alongside USC senior representatives Glenn Osaki, former Sr. VP and Chief Communications Officer, Minne Ho, Executive Director of Communications for USC Student Health, and Jane Frey, Creative Director of USC to provide updates and refine the strategy.
The IYA COVID marketing team, co-led by faculty Carsten Becker and Chris Swain, is made up of Academy students Jenny Choi, Ryan Curcio, Eliza Glover, Crystal Guo, Casey Reich, Sydney Loew, Nicholas Moser, Mars Tan, and Ashara Wilson. Team member Eliza Glover was one of the first 10,000 people in the United States to become infected with the COVID-19. “I figured when I came back to USC other people would be scared of the disease,” says Glover. “It turns out that’s not the case.” Glover’s personal experience with the virus inspired her to join the marketing campaign. She’s also been working closely with USC’s creative director Jane Frey to iterate on and make the team’s ideas a reality.
“I am looking forward to seeing people again, even if I still have to social distance,” says Choi. “Being on campus, in the same time zone, same space, and feeling a part of this community again is enough to make me happy.”
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