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The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has started working with the UK’s biggest gaming companies, in a bid to reinforce its ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ instruction to some of the UK's 37 million active gamers. 

Over the weekend, a fresh wave of images showing people disobeying lockdown perforated the web, presenting a need for the UK government to invest more in marketing its public health message. 

So far, Number 10 has been pushing the messaging out via TV, radio and out-of-home ads, accompanied by display and social media activity. Extending this reach, it is now using geotargeting technology to get its instruction to appear on popular games, including Candy Crush Saga, Sniper Elite 4, DiRT Rally 2.0 and Farm Heroes Saga.

The DCMS is particularly trying to reinforce the message to younger people, who spend more time playing video games than any other age bracket.

Of those gaming companies on board, Activision Blizzard is inserting the ‘Stay At Home’ messaging in their network of mobile games, most notably Candy Crush Saga. Beyond this, it has donated more than 230 ‘digital poster’ advertising spaces in London, where they would normally advertise their own products, to be used for crucial public health messaging.

‘Stay At Home’ posters are already being featured in Codemasters’DiRT Rally 2.0, to its audience of over a million gamers.  The company is now looking at ways to roll out more essential health messages in games across Europe and the US in the coming weeks. 

Rebellion, who owns Sniper Elite and Strange Brigade will be including the messaging on their its games landing page launch sites for their games, with the capacity for these messages to link to pages where appropriate.  As well as developing games, Rebellion also publish comic books and have also offered advertising in these.

On the game integration, culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “It is absolutely vital that we all follow the simple government advice to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives. I’m delighted to see the UK’s brilliant video games industry stepping up to strongly reinforce this message to gamers across the UK.”

On Friday (3 April),  the NHS urgently adapted its strategy to make the 'Stay Home' message harder hitting by featuring footage of frontline staff.

Created by MullenLowe, the latest campaign broadcasts real footage of NHS workers at the frontline, reminding those at home of the severity of the crisis. It also features real clips from other aspects of the ongoing pandemic, including those clapping in support of the health service, abandoned streets due to lockdown, those taking food responsibly to vulnerable adults, and people taking their one hour of exercise a day.