With more than $1 million already being spent, you can’t escape ‘Mask Up Lebanon’ campaign

Hal Conte, Lebanon Daily News//November 13, 2020

With more than $1 million already being spent, you can’t escape ‘Mask Up Lebanon’ campaign

Hal Conte, Lebanon Daily News//November 13, 2020

Lebanon County Commissioners still have nearly $2 million to spend to meet their obligations for a massive  “Mask Up” campaign. And they need to spend that money before the end of the year.

In September, the county spent about $14,000, and then dropped another $240,00 in October to promote masks as a means of mitigating the coronavirus pandemic. The campaign budget soared to nearly $800,000 in November.

In August, the county agreed to spend $2.8 million of the $12.8 million it received in CARES Act funding to promote the use of face masks as part of a settlement with Gov. Tom Wolf’s office. Wolf initially withheld CARES Act money because the Lebanon County commissioners voted in May to move the county into the yellow phase against state orders.

“Mask Up Lebanon” signs are now ubiquitous throughout the county; they can be found on and around businesses ranging from restaurants to libraries. Publications, including the Lebanon Daily News and the Lebanon Valley Area Merchandiser, have featured advertising from the campaign, and ads for the campaign can be found on the websites of local businesses and organizations.

The campaign has also included 55,000 fliers and masks sent to Lebanon County households and media buys in English and Spanish.

“The signs really took off,” said county Administrator Jamie Wolgemuth. “A lot of businesses were able to take advantage of that.”

Commissioner Bill Ames, who questioned the idea of the Mask Up campaign in August and refused to sign the county’s settlement, said he was not in a place to measure the campaign’s effectiveness. He noted that coronavirus numbers are still going up and as a result he wouldn’t deem it a success.

“I honestly think it’s ridiculous to spend that kind of money when there are people that are applying for grants and are not going to be getting them,” he said. He said that he was grateful that it was local businesses being sourced to provide most of the services but that he stands by his position that the state government shouldn’t have the right to tell the county how to spend money received.

Wolgemuth highlighted that almost everything has been sourced locally, including graphic design and printing. Companies sourced include Kauffman Creative Services in Palmyra, 2B Creative and Fresh Creative in Lebanon and Gretna Graphics LLC, among others.

Even the video ads have been produced by a local company, Simone Associates.

Art Clagett, owner of Simone Associates, said that the actors in the ads were all Lebanon County residents playing the roles they do in their everyday lives. “You want to pick real people,” he said.

Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz, who did sign the settlement, said that everyone involved with the Mask Up campaign had done “a stellar job.”

“We must show leadership and cooperate with those who are providing the funds,” she said, describing the CARES money as “a hand-up, not a hand-out.” “This is a win-win and I think we should be grateful.”

Businesses that have signs are expected to keep them up through the end of the year.