Ambulance Victoria dances with Sharon
When netball-loving Sharon Strzelecki, star of Kath and Kim, contacted Ambulance Victoria about dancing with paramedics, the service sprang into action
The netball-loving, accident-prone Sharon Strzelecki, fictional star of Australian comedy show Kath and Kim, is a cultural icon in her homeland. Indeed, the actress who plays her – Magda Szubanski – is often described as a ‘national treasure’. So, when Szubanski suggested Sharon could appear in a video to support Ambulance Victoria, the service bit her proverbial hand off!
Apart from an Uber advertisement co-starring Kim Kardashian, Sharon had not been seen on Australian television screens for 13 years. But after watching Ambulance Victoria’s Marlie Lochran and her fellow paramedics from the Mordialloc branch dancing to American comedian Laura Clery’s spoof ‘quarantine workout’ song, Szubanski connected via Twitter suggesting Sharon might like to dance with the paramedics.
With lockdown putting paid to any professional video, it was decided that the best way to proceed would be for Sharon to sing a well-known song while doctors, nurses and paramedics across the state would be invited to film themselves singing the lyrics.
The song chosen was Soft Cell’s Tainted Love, with the title altered to Covid Bug and the lyrics adapted to reflect the health crisis. Sharon sang lines like ‘Sometimes I feel I’ve got to run away. I’ve got to get away from the bugs you drive into the heart of me, the germs you share seem to go everywhere and I don’t think it’s ‘noice’ because then I toss and turn and I can’t sleep at night.’ (‘Noice’ is a term used liberally by Sharon in Kath and Kim.)
And ‘Don’t touch me please, I’m so scared of the way you sneeze, I loved you though you hurt me so but I’m just going to take my thermometer and go.’
Szubanski sent across her 11 takes, which the content team at Ambulance Victoria edited together with footage sent in by fellow healthcare professionals. They worked closely with the actress throughout the process to ensure that the film captured an authentic sense of joy and fun.
Upon its release, Dance with Sharon went instantly viral. It remains Ambulance Victoria’s best performing post by a considerable stretch. It has been viewed more than 1.5 million times, and featured on every major television network in Australia as well as online media outlets. The feedback was unanimously positive.
But the campaign also reaffirmed some critical understandings for Ambulance Victoria as to what makes an effective campaign. Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, it gave careful thought to the timings of social posts against the prevailing public sentiment. The content team always asks four questions:
- What do people want to know?
- What are they tired of hearing?
- Is this time for lightness or intensity?
- Should this be authoritative direction or empathetic acknowledgement?
The video was released at the beginning of lockdown, when case numbers in Australia were relatively low and no paramedics in Victoria had contracted Covid. If the video had been released months into lockdown, when the state was fearful of a second wave, then it is uncertain whether it would have received such a positive reaction.