Black Celebrities Are Encouraging Americans to Wear Face Masks in New PSA

The national campaign is from the Ad Council, CDC and 3AM

close-up of actor Viola Davis wearing a face mask in PSA
Triple Crown-winning actor Viola Davis is one of the many Black stars inspiring Americans to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

In mid-July, the CDC published a study that found that the percentage of Black Americans who report wearing a mask at all times in public and social spaces is 16% higher than the percentage of all Americans wearing a face mask outside of their homes (79% compared to 63%). However, the CDC also found that both Latinx and Black Americans across the United States are three times more likely to be infected as their white neighbors, and two times more likely to die from the virus than white people. 

To support those Black Americans who have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic, the Ad Council, CDC, CDC Foundation and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services have teamed up to launch a new PSA, “You Will See Me,” and tapped a slew of Black actors, TV personalities and athletes to deliver a message of empowerment. Some of the partially covered famous faces viewers will encounter in the 60-second spot include Triple Crown-winning actor Viola Davis, Olympic champion Simone Biles, The Roots members Questlove and Black Thought, television personalities Stephen A. Smith and Lala Anthony, actors Marcus Scribner and Deon Cole, musicians Kirk Franklin and Lecrae, and NY Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. The PSA, which focuses on inspiring Black Americans to wear face masks to help mitigate the spread of the virus in communities, was created by 3AM, a division of the Los Angeles-based entertainment agency Wild Card Creative Group. The full video from the integrated campaign, as well as cuts and stills from it, will be distributed on broadcast and digital media. 

“Longstanding systemic inequities continue to put Black Americans among those who are most severely affected by this virus,” said Leandris Liburd, Ph.D., associate director of CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity, in a statement. “At this critical time in the pandemic, it is important that more Black Americans wear a face mask to help stop the spread of this virus in communities.”

“The campaign started one evening in mid-May, when my 18-year-old son announced he was going out for a run,” Tara DeVeaux, evp, chief marketing officer at 3AM, told Adweek. “That wasn’t unusual, but I was scared. The video of Ahmaud Arbery’s killing had just been released, it was getting dark, and he’d be wearing a mask,” DeVeaux continued. She relayed this story to the Ad Council team when, a few days later, they asked 3AM to develop a face mask campaign for Black Americans. “It was important to our team to address the unique risks Black people face when doing the right thing to protect ourselves and our community,” she added. DeVeaux hopes that both the message of wearing a mask and recognizing the humanity of the person behind the mask will save lives. 

“Starting production during a pandemic made every step harder,” DeVeaux shared, “and each day there was a new problem to solve.” To help streamline the distanced-process, 3AM offered its main talent three different options—self-shooting, remote shooting with the 3AM team on Team Viewer and the usage of a small, in-person crew. Each option was used for about three weeks, and pre-production was done through Zoom. 

“We also wanted real people in the campaign to show the scale and diversity within the Black community, so we recruited friends and family to send in iPhone footage. It wasn’t always perfect (OK, it never was!) but everyone was patient and kind—we were all in this together,” DeVeaux said. 

“You Will See Me” is an integrated campaign that has received donated support from partners involved with its execution. Some of these donors include VidMob, which developed the digital banners, Aspire TV, which supported the campaign in digital display and broadcast TV inventory, and Extreme Reach, which donated its software to get the PSAs out rapidly. Martin Luther King III, along with his wife, Arndrea Waters King, and their daughter, Yolanda Renee King, are serving as community ambassadors and spokespeople for the campaign. 

“You Will See Me” is only the latest in several of Ad Council’s ongoing efforts to address Covid-19 from the very beginning of the outbreak in the United States. The first campaigns, “The More You Know” (in collaboration with NBCUniversal) and “#AloneTogether” (in collaboration with ViacomCBS), were launched in mid-March and early April. The Ad Council also created a campaign early on in the period of lockdowns and quarantines targeted to kids. The “Caring for Each Other” initiative featured Sesame Street’s fuzzy residents singing about practicing good hygiene. 

According to a statement, the Ad Council’s efforts have reached 23.6 billion impressions across $347 million in donated, earned and shared media. This has translated to 50 million consumer engagements and more than 26 million direct sessions to

@monicroqueta Mónica is a breaking news reporter at Adweek.