Case Study

The COVID-19 pandemic changed life as we know it. Travel plans and in-person events were canceled en masse as work and school went remote for a good chunk of the global population. As the deadly virus made its way to nearly every country on the planet, government officials and health professionals scrambled to communicate safety guidelines and enforce new quarantine rules. The United States was hit particularly hard, with nearly nine million cases of COVID-19 and counting.

Even 2,000 miles away from the mainland US, Hawaii wasn’t immune to the spread of coronavirus — or the misinformation about it. As science and basic hygiene guidelines became politicized, the local Oahu government struggled to communicate science-backed safety precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. To that end, City and County of Honolulu officials teamed up with local marketing firm Anthology Marketing Group to raise awareness.

“Knowing that we needed to communicate changing health guidelines in real time to a wide variety of audiences, including many who are inproficient in English, we turned to Tapjoy to help engage residents with science-based, easily adopted recommendations that could help prevent infections,” Anthology Marketing Group’s Digital Media Manager Julia Street said. With that, mask-wearing and social distancing became the focus of this awareness campaign.


Impressions per ad


Completion rate

Fighting Misinformation While Inspiring Behavioral Change

Together, Honolulu’s City officials worked with Anthology Marketing Group to create a communication strategy based on sharing the most up-to-date, science-based health protocols in a clear and easily understood manner. They determined that a more positive approach — letting people know what they could do to help, rather than telling them what they couldn’t do — would be better received, and together they sought to normalize health recommendations. It was a great plan on paper, but pulling it off was another story entirely.

“Inspiring behavioral change is one of the hardest marketing outcomes to achieve,” said Ms. Street. “When you add in all the confusion, misinformation, and political rhetoric surrounding COVID-19, increasing compliance with the recommended health guidelines became all the more challenging.”

The team realized that an interactive ad could boost engagement and help get the desired results. Enter Tapjoy’s Video to Interactive End Card, a unique format that follows up a video ad with a quick, playable activity.

“We had run in-app ads before, but never in-app playables. Working with Tapjoy made it possible to create memorable experiences while normalizing the concepts of mask-wearing and social distancing.”

- Julia Street, Digital Media Manager, Anthology Marketing Group

Interactive, Localized Content Sees High Engagement

As it soon turned out, the Video to INTERACTIVE END CARD product was the perfect fit for Honolulu’s campaign goals. Anthology Marketing Group provided creative assets and shared their ideas, and the campaign kicked off with a mock-up phase. The design team landed on two different types of interactive end cards that utilized elements of Oahu’s geography and culture while doing their part to keep people informed about COVID-19 precautions.

“It’s important to customize the look and feel of the visual assets to resonate with the residents of Oahu,” Julia said. “We prefer that the campaigns we run to a local audience incorporate our unique culture, demographics, and preferences. We wanted the ads to look relevant to our target audience because visuals that are tailored to appeal to the local audience tend to outperform those that are designed for a more generic aesthetic.”

The first playable, “Mask Game,” featured versions with male and female cartoon characters. The objective for players was to drag a mask onto these characters’ faces, a simple but engaging way to get the point across. The second initiative leveraged elements from the popular endless runner mobile game genre and challenged users to run through scenic Hawai‘i streets collecting masks and avoiding groups of people. Once the ads were designed and executed, Tapjoy’s mobile strategists made the proper bid optimizations to allow the campaign to scale.

The strategy proved effective: “Mask Game” proved to be popular, with both versions racking up over 23,000 impressions. The interactive end cards had over 90% completion rates, with the female version slightly edging out the male version. The endless runner fared even better in terms of video impressions: over 40,000 throughout the month of November 2020 with similarly high completion rates.

COVID-19 Safety Awareness Grows

All teams involved were happy with the results of the COVID-19 awareness campaign. “We’re very pleased that through our Tapjoy ads, we were able to normalize guideline compliance in a way that’s engaging,” Ms. Street said. “Wearing masks and social distancing are presented as normal and desirable without preaching at the user.” The successful campaign also WON A PELE AWARD, which recognizes impactful advertising and design in Hawaii. On top of high engagement and completion rates, Julia reported that a good chunk of users even visited the website for more information, a sign that they were taking COVID-19 preparedness seriously.

Meanwhile, the number of daily coronavirus cases in Honolulu county remain lower than they did in August before the ad campaigns launched. The pandemic may be far from over, but Honolulu residents are now armed with information about how to protect themselves and their families.

“Tapjoy’s engagement model really helped us connect with our target audience. We’re very pleased that these ads helped us normalize guideline compliance in a fun, positive way.”

- Julia Street, Digital Media Manager, Anthology Marketing Group

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