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Rona For Real: New campaign uses humor to encourage COVID-19 prevention

Meet Rona, the red, virus-shaped character who is the uninvited guest at social gatherings.

MICHIGAN, USA — He's a red, virus-shaped character here to ruin your fun. 

His name is Rona, and he's part of a new ad campaign across Michigan created to promote COVID-19 precautions, such as social distancing. 

"We learned as people's habits were changing, that the old messages just were not getting through," said Gerry Anderson, Executive Chairman at DTE Energy. "Wear masks, stay six feet apart. People heard it so much, they were just shedding it."

The campaign, called Rona for Real, features phrases such as, "Rona loves a sick party," and "Catching up with friends? Don't run into Rona." 

Credit: "Rona For Real"
Some ads center around the proper way to wear a mask.

The campaign is funded by the DTE Energy Foundation and multiple other companies and healthcare providers. Last week, social media ads and 100 billboards were put up all across the state. They are also shooting video and soon will have traditional television commercials. 

Anderson said the push for new messaging came after the recent spike in cases. At the point when cases were beginning to drop at the start of summer, he said polling showed people were fatigued and less worried.

"They were beginning to change their habits, and their habits were relaxing," said Anderson. "And so, the predictable happened. Cases took off, and they took off from 70 to where they are today now in August, 700-800. So more than tenfold increase."

The ads are lighthearted, if not a little funny and cheesy, but with a serious message. The goal is also to attract to younger Michiganders, who are seeing the largest increases in cases. Anderson said polling showed people were growing fatigued in the messaging, and they "felt like a lecture."

Rona represents the asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19. 

"And the serious message is that if you let your guard down, and you become a carrier, it may not ultimate really hurt you deeply," said Anderson. "But you could pass it on to somebody who really is vulnerable."

RELATED: Children with no COVID-19 symptoms may be more contagious than sick adults, study finds

The DTE Energy Foundation raised $5 million for the campaign, and is funded for the next six months. 

Two Michigan design firms collaborated to create Rona and the look of the Rona is Real campaign, BLVD Detroit, and REGROUP. Anderson also served as the chair of the Governor's Economic Recovery Council. 

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