FL health dept. takes innovative approach to avian flu comms

TALLAHASSEE, FL: The Florida Department of Health has taken a unique approach to the risk of pandemic influenza, launching a campaign intended to improve basic hygiene practices without ever mentioning the possibility of a flu outbreak.

TALLAHASSEE, FL: The Florida Department of Health has taken a unique approach to the risk of pandemic influenza, launching a campaign intended to improve basic hygiene practices without ever mentioning the possibility of a flu outbreak.

The risk of an avian flu outbreak has pushed many government agencies to wage aggressive awareness campaigns on the subject. But research conducted by Florida and the agency Marketing for Change suggested the general public didn't believe the risk was real.

"We were just doing some research for them, which basically showed people didn't think [avian flu] was going to happen," said Peter Mitchell, chairman and chief creative officer for Marketing for Change. "So, to come at them and say, ‘We have another huge emergency for you to prepare for' didn't really resonate at all."

Instead, the department has launched "The Fifth Guy" campaign, based around the statistic that one in five people don't follow basic practices like washing hands after using the restroom, covering their mouth when coughing, or staying at home when sick.

"No one wants to be the person who stands out," said Kevin Cate, press secretary for the health department. "When we found people didn't believe the flu pandemic would happen we decided to build a campaign around people wanting to fit in."

Working with Marketing for Chance on the campaign, the department developed a number of advertisements around "The Fifth Guy," such as "Four out of five people wash their hands. Let's talk to the fifth guy."

Herrle Communications Group has provided PR support, taking an actor playing "The Fifth Guy" on a media tour on morning shows around the state. Marketing for Change has received inquiries from several other states since the launch of the campaign, according to Mitchell.

The campaign is set to run through the end of June, but could be extended if research shows it is effective.

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