Client: Duane Reade
PR Team: Morgen-Walke Campaign: Emergency Prescription Processing
Time Frame: September 11-September 30, 2001
Duane Reade, the drugstore chain that dominates the island of Manhattan,
isn't the image that most people immediately associate with NYC. But to
residents, Duane Reade (which takes its name from its first location,
between Duane and Reade Streets) is as comfortable and reliable as a
bagel and large coffee in the morning. When the September 11 attacks
forced the pharmacy to close 20 of its lower-Manhattan stores, the
chain's in-house comms team and senior management - along with PR firm
Morgen-Walke Associates - scrambled to compose a message to tell
customers where they could have their prescriptions filled at one of the
other 108 stores in the five boroughs.
Faced with having to convey its message immediately and amidst a major
crisis, Duane Reade decided to keep its message focused on one point:
Tell patients who may be in dire need of their medication - such as
seniors or heart patients - where the nearest open Duane Reade was, and
how they could have their prescriptions filled.
Jack Cohen, an account representative at Morgen-Walke, described the
message that Duane Reade was trying to communicate as "humanitarian." He
added that the in-house comms staff wrote the spots because Duane Reade
felt it had an obligation to reach out to its customers and do
everything that it could to make sure that they had any prescriptions
The first step was for Duane Reade's in-house comms staff to quickly
write and produce radio and TV spots that would direct customers who
were expecting prescriptions to be filled at one of the closed stores to
other Duane Reade locations.
On September 12, the commercials aired on New York radio and TV
In an instructional tone, the commercials related the simple fact of
where people in Manhattan could have their prescriptions filled. In
addition, the commercials pointed customers to Duane Reade's website,
where they could access the phone numbers of Duane Reade pharmacies or
fill their emergency prescriptions online. Duane Reade's media team also
reached out to local media with updates as more and more of the stores
Duane Reade urged patients to "tell the pharmacist that you were a
client of the temporarily closed stores."
The comms team saw TV and radio spots as the best way to reach customers
during the time of the crisis, when everyone was tuned in to the media
to find out what was happening.
"A press release just isn't going to reach the average consumer," says
Cohen. "Those spots had to be rushed out by the communications staff to
get the bare-bones facts to the public during the time of crisis."
The spots ran nonstop for the first week after the attack. In addition
to being placed on all major TV and radio stations in the New York area,
various news programs also ran updates on the stores' progress in
Duane Reade also appeared on local news shows for donating prescription
drugs, first aid supplies, and consumables to hospital and emergency
The point of the campaign was to provide information until all of the
closed Duane Reade stores could be reopened. The drugstore chain ran the
spots until all but two of its stores were reopened. It lost one store
that was located on the ground floor of the World Trade Center, but all
employees made it out safely.