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Michigan group launches COVID-19 awareness campaign: 'Rona 4 Real'

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Using the slogan "Rona for Real," a business-backed group has launched a public awareness campaign that seeks to educate young people in Michigan about the seriousness of COVID-19.

The multimillion-dollar campaign, which is being financially supported by the DTE Energy Foundation and other companies, will include a website — www.Rona4Real.com, billboards, advertisements and merchandise. The efforts focused on a sunglasses-wearing animated character named "Rona," which is the nickname some people have given the coronavirus.

Billboards with the slogan "Rona 4 Real" have popped up in Michigan in recent weeks. This digital billboard is in Lansing near the Capitol.

In recent days, billboard advertisements have begun showing up in Michigan that read, "Headed up north? Rona's down." The image features a group of young people at the beach along with the "Rona" character.

The new campaign is meant to bring a "fresh new approach" to increasing public awareness about the virus and break through fatigue people have about traditional COVID-19 messages, said Gerry Anderson, executive chairman of DTE Energy.

"They were worn out. They weren't landing anymore," Anderson said Wednesday of past awareness messages.

The new campaign is meant to focus on "hard-to-reach" audiences and those in the 18 to 29 age group, its organizers said Wednesday

Michigan has experienced increases in cases among those under the age of 30 in recent weeks. As of May 10 — two months after Michigan reported its first cases of the virus — about 13% of the state's cases were those under the age of 30. As of this week, 25% of the state's overall cases are those under 30.

Overall, Michigan reported Tuesday 98,439 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6,417 deaths linked to the virus.

In July, a health care and business leader coalition announced it had commissioned a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to encourage Michiganians to "adhere to safety best practices."

This campaign's supporters include DTE Energy Foundation, General Motors Co., Lear, Meijer, UAW Michigan, Consumers Energy Foundation, Quicken Loans Community Fund, Wolverine Worldwide, Dow, Steelcase, TCF Bank, Beaumont Health, Henry Ford Health System, Spectrum Health, Herman Miller, Barton Malow and Oakland University, according to a press release.

The "Rona 4 Real" website is credited to an organization called MI for All. The name "Michigan for All" was reserved by the Greater Detroit CEO Collaborative in June, according to state business records.

The group backing the campaign has raised enough money to fund it for "the next six months or so," Anderson said Wednesday.

cmauger@detroitnews.com