In recent days, New Jersey drivers may have been surprised to see billboards featuring native sons Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and Jon Stewart wearing COVID masks under the words, “Wear a friggin’ mask!”
The effort, launched just before the Thanksgiving holiday, is the first phase of a “Mask Up” campaign, spearheaded by New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy and the NJ Pandemic Relief Fund. There are 30 billboards displayed across the state, with three more slated to go up by the East Rutherford and the Meadowlands Arena for December.
The NJ Pandemic relief fund, according to Drew Katz, CEO of Interstate Outdoor Advertising based in Cherry Hill, NJ, is focused “to help the most vulnerable New Jersey populations affected during COVID from mental health issues to digital divide issues to food insecurity.”
Springsteen himself got the message out on social media, tweeting: “Teamed up with some fellow New Jerseyans to encourage everyone this holiday season to wear a friggin’ mask. Let’s all come together and #MaskUpNJ so we can get back to what we do best – singing along and dancing together.”
Teamed up with some fellow New Jerseyans to encourage everyone this holiday season to wear a friggin’ mask. Let’s all come together and #MaskUpNJ so we can get back to what we do best – singing along and dancing together. @FirstLadyNJ @NJ_PRF @NJGov pic.twitter.com/djovXOxiIu
— Bruce Springsteen (@springsteen) November 25, 2020
Katz, who sits on the board of the NJ Pandemic Relief Fund, was approached by Murphy, who “felt strongly about getting the message out before Thanksgiving to remind people traveling for the holiday that the simple act of wearing a mask will save lives,” he told Variety on Monday. “It’s just overwhelming the amount of suffering that’s going on, separate and apart from the physical suffering that the virus has caused.”
Katz said the move to get the billboards up happened quickly, as Murphy first contacted him around November 20.
“She said experts had told her that unless we get the message out during the holidays — that you need to continue to stay vigilant and wear your mask and socially distance yourself — more people are going to die, and asked us to help get the word out with a billboard campaign. I’ve done multiple campaigns throughout the state and have organized the industry to be helpful with the messages of mask wearing and social distancing.”
Murphy hammered the message on her own Twitter feed, writing: “As we enter the holiday season, it’s important to stay vigilant about #COVID19. @JonBonJovi, @Springsteen, and Jon Stewart teamed up with @NJ_PRF and @NJDeptofHealth to remind you to wear a friggin’ mask!”
Interstate Outdoor Advertising has over 1,200 outdoor advertising signs in the state, and as luck would have it, there was inventory of 30 available billboards for the current campaign. Katz said they billboards were donated to the fund at no cost.
“The First Lady has had an enormous amount of dogged determination to save as many lives as we possibly can, and she was the inspiration behind the ‘Jersey for Jersey’ virtual pandemic-relief concert with Springsteen, Bon Jovi and Stewart,” Katz said. “If this campaign inspires, dozens, hundreds, thousands of people, to remember to put on their masks where they might otherwise not, then it’s done its job.”
Since its inception in April, the NJ Pandemic Relief Fund has raised $39.5 million from over 60,000 donors in the Garden State. To date, the fund has given away nearly $30 million to over 460 organizations helping the most vulnerable across all 21 counties in New Jersey. Its initial focus supported community-based organizations on the frontlines of the pandemic, including food pantries, churches, health clinics, homeless shelters, housing organizations, senior citizen support, direct cash subsidies, and mental health organizations, according to its website.