Iovine and Young Academy students launch campaign to curb community virus spread

Called “Spread Care, Not COVID,” the campaign uses positivity and creative messaging to emphasize social responsibility to fellow students.

USC Iovine and Young Academy (IYA) students are working to fight the spread of COVID-19 with the upcoming launch of their “Spread Care, Not COVID” campaign. The peer-to-peer call to be socially responsible for the good of the student body and surrounding community aims to curb future outbreaks like those seen at Duke University, all with the hope of a safe return to campus this coming fall.

“Over the course of the fall semester, the student team conducted student research and developed ideas that could help promote awareness and underscore the importance of pro-social behaviors among the USC student community,” IYA Communications Manager Karine Kim told Annenberg Media in an email statement. “Pro-social” behaviors include wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. Kim said the intention was to create media that would resonate with students.

IYA was established in 2013 with a goal of fostering creative and critical thinking at the crossroads of communication, computer science, business and design. This new campaign is meant to reflect that philosophy. IYA students combined their creative and marketing skill sets to develop an impactful advertising campaign.

Kim said the campaign will include the production and display of posters around campus, the distribution of virtual Zoom backgrounds to students, as well as memes to be released in the popular student Facebook groups.

Kim also said the campaign plans to release themed merchandise, including hoodies, hand sanitizers and masks to the USC bookstores by the end of March. All proceeds from the campaign’s USC bookstore sales will go to the USC Student Relief Fund to help students in need.

Eliza Glover was one of nine students selected to work on the campaign. Glover was in charge of the rollout process and collaborated on the development of the campaign design.

“One of the biggest things is ‘how do you get college kids to care when there’s not as much consequence?’” Glover said about the project’s driving question. “We wanted something that was relatable and funny and kind of positive.”

Signs and banners are scheduled to go up soon at Fertitta Hall, the Tutor Center, Bovard Auditorium and Iovine and Young Hall. Memes will roll out on various USC platforms including the digital We Are SC newsletter, social media and the Experience USC webpage.

The campaign will also reach out to members of the surrounding South Los Angeles community with the intention of uniting the Trojan family with their neighbors. Co-leader of the campaign and Iovine and Young faculty member Carsten Becker said his students have been engaging with those near campus, both in-person and virtually.

“We developed ideas of students actually going out and actively passing out masks to make sure our neighbors are OK,” Becker said of the collaboration. “That was a really big part of our philosophy – to not just look at ourselves, but to think about how we can solve these problems for the bigger community.”

In addition to the on-campus creative assets, Becker said the campaign will feature a digital catalog with photographs of both USC students and local community members working together to keep the area safe. Though the project is currently specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, Becker believes it can be repurposed to apply to future hardships that will require community collaboration.

When it comes to future extensions, Becker said he “can see a potential for students to band together again if something else comes our way” and that “it’s a great example for student-led initiatives that both impact our campus community but also bridge the gap outside our walls at USC.”

When Glover was asked about how she expected students to react to the campaign, she was optimistic about its ability to engage the student body into taking concrete action.

“I think people will react positively towards it. I think it’s something that students are lacking at the moment; kind of that affirmation from the university,” said Glover. “A lot of students that I’ve talked to just feel the motivation is down about what’s going to happen next.”

This affirmation and peer-to-peer messaging is what Becker believes will make the campaign effective. Like many others, students are grappling with the harsh realities of COVID-19, and many of the students who worked on the campaign had direct contact with the virus.

“One of our students actually [was infected] with COVID, and several others had roommates who were,” Becker said. “That first-hand experience is what drove us to create messages of unity and solidarity.”