What Is The WELL Health-Safety Seal & Why Are These Celebrities Involved?

Photo: James Devaney/GC Images.
If you’ve seen the latest star-studded ad campaign making the rounds on Twitter right now, you probably have a lot of questions. Like, what in the world does a WELL Health-Safety Seal even mean? Is it something that companies are given, or something they purchase? And why did Jennifer Lopez and Lady Gaga cosplaying The Hunger Games agree to be the face of this?
“If you want to get back to your favorite places and feel confident they have put your health and safety first,” Lopez says in a campaign video that made the rounds on Thursday. Shortly after her impassioned address, other celebrities including Michael B. Jordan, Lady Gaga, and Robert De Niro joined her. Then, each spokesperson started reciting the hypnotic mantra urging viewers to “look for the WELL Health-Safety Seal.”
De Niro tells us that if we see the WELL Health-Safety Rated logo outside a school, office, store, or restaurant, “Everything may look the same, but the WELL Health-Safety Seal means that your health and safety are top of mind.” But the ad offers little to no information on how the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI), which developed the rating, plans to guarantee the safety of an establishment.
Paul Scialla, a former Goldman Sachs partner and the founder of IWBI’s parent company, Delos, appears briefly in the video to clarify that the safety rating is informed by “years of research and input” from leading virologists, public health experts, epidemiologists, and health professionals. But — I cannot stress this enough — the ad doesn't completely explain what IWBI is.
A deeper dive into the company offers some more specifics. In order for a building to receive the Well Health-Safety Rating, it must meet at least 15 of 22 criteria related to sanitization procedures, emergency preparedness programs, air and water quality, and health service resources. That said, this isn’t just a rating from a Health Department — if you want an evaluation and subsequent WELL Health-Safety Rating, there’s a cost. According to the company’s website, the designation costs anywhere between $2,730 and $12,600, depending on the size of the building and the revenue of its businesses. As of 2019, Delos was valued at $800 million, according to Forbes. (Which perhaps explains how this company brought stars like Lady Gaga onboard.)
But aside from whatever’s going on with IWBI as a company, it’s difficult to make sense of this specific campaign. Scialla attempted to explain his vision: “This is more than an awareness campaign; it’s meant to ignite a movement,” he said, according to Business Wire. “These ambassadors and cultural influencers are partnering with us because they truly believe in the mission, and how critical it is, to make buildings and shared spaces center on health going forward.”
Tony Antolino, Delos’ chief commercial officer, told Ad Age that he wanted the campaign to appear “very much in the style of a public-service announcement.” He said that he “developed the vision” himself before hiring — wait for it — Spike Lee to direct the minute-long video. Yes, you read that correctly: Award-winning filmmaker Spike Lee, who brought us She’s Gotta Have It and Da 5 Bloods, is the same mastermind who now brings us 60 seconds of celebrities saying, “Look for the WELL Health-Safety Seal.”
People online were eager to question (and mock) both the validity of the seal and the video itself.
The most damning comment, however, came from one user who took a screenshot of the video’s final frame. “The WELL Health-Safety Seal is awarded after an annual review of a building’s written policies and protocols,” a disclaimer reads. “Achievement of the WELL Health-Safety Rating does not guarantee that a space is safe or free from pathogens.” So… that’s comforting!

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