New Merck TV ad reminds parents that preteen doctor visits can't wait

After a quick decline in doctor visits—and vaccinations—amid the pandemic, Merck & Co.’s latest awareness campaign reminds parents to keep up on their preteen children's wellness exams. 

A 15-second TV spot, "Time that Matters" was created from existing footage and features kids being kids—creating art, taking selfies with dogs, playing an instrument and singing to music with headphones on.

A female voiceover says, “This is time that matters—a window of time to help protect the ones you love. Your preteen benefits from staying up to date with their well visits. This is your window of protection,” as a young man rides past a window on a bike.

While COVID-19 is never specifically mentioned, it’s not difficult to fill in the blank.

As the pandemic took hold in March, doctor visits quickly declines; they were down by 60% through mid-May, according to Commonwealth Fund research. Childhood vaccinations dropped at the same time, with measles, mumps and rubella shots down by 50%; diphtheria and whooping cough down by 42%; and HPV vaccines by 73%, according to a New York Times report.

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“As families first began to stay at home to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we saw a concerning decrease in healthcare visits, including a decline in child well-visits,”  a Merck spokesperson said via email.

The CDC has reminded the public that child well visits remain essential during the pandemic—and that includes any vaccinations, including catch-ups.

While the TV ad doesn't mention specific treatment or even vaccinations, Merck's HPV vaccine Gardisil is recommended by the CDC to be given to children at the preteen ages of 11-12. Merck reported sales of Gardasil were down 26% during the second quarter. The company also sells a range of other childhood vaccines.

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The TV commercial is running across all major networks, as well as on selected cable TV and radio outlets. Social media support includes a “Time that Matters” video ad on Twitter and a complementary online effort that lets parents know "vaccinations aren't virtual."

Merck is no stranger to awareness campaigns, especially for the HPV vaccine. Earlier this year, it updated its long-running “Did you Know?” campaign with the more parent-empowered “Not My Child” ad currently running.