ATLANTA: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a $1.6 million consumer-focused PR campaign to discourage the overuse of antibiotics. The initiative, "Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work," marks the first time CDC has launched a major PR push targeting consumers.
The effort is aimed mainly at parents because the majority of antibiotic prescriptions are written for children. Print and online educational brochures in English and Spanish, as well as TV, radio, and print PSAs, are being used to inform parents about when antibiotics are appropriate.
CDC and Ogilvy PR have also developed a campaign mascot - an owl wearing a T-shirt bearing the campaign slogan. The government agency hopes doctors will attach a toy version of the owl to their stethoscopes to entertain kids.
The mascot was developed in part to counteract Max, a plastic zebra developed by Pfizer for Zithromax, an antibiotic for ear infections.
"It is of concern that children have started to recognize a character associated with an antibiotic," said Richard Bresser, medical director for CDC and head of campaign in reference to the Max character.
The CDC campaign was originally created to combat the problem of antibiotic resistance, which can develop from overuse. For years, the agency has provided physicians with guidelines on appropriate antibiotic use. Additional outreach proved necessary when research showed that patient demand is the driving factor in overuse.
"Doctors get worn down by parents" insisting that their children be given an antibiotic, explained Pam Jenkins, managing director for Ogilvy PR. "We had to get out and talk to consumers more aggressively."
Ogilvy PR has been working on the campaign since last year, when it was chosen by CDC to help with strategy, materials development and dissemination, and media relations.