Flu sufferers told to 'Take a Benylin Day'

Campaign Take a Benylin Day Client McNeil PR team Munro & Forster Timescale November 2008-January 2009 Budget c. £100,000

For more than a decade, nearly every cold and flu brand has encouraged cold/flu sufferers to take medication and get back to work.

Benylin’s consumer research suggested people felt the best way to overcome a cold was to stay home and rest. This view was endorsed by healthcare professionals, who recognise going back to work while ill compromises productivity, prolongs the duration of the cold/flu, and also risks infecting colleagues. NHS Direct advises that, if you are usually fit and healthy, you can treat the symptoms of colds and flu at home.

The Take a Benylin Day campaign was designed by McNeil, the makers of Benylin, to challenge the perception that a cold or flu does not justify sick leave.


To generate awareness of the Take a Benylin Day campaign within the natio­nal consumer media

To drive media debate about Take a Benylin Day and its key messages

To encourage the use of ‘take a Benylin day’ as a general term, meaning to take a day off from work due to a cold or flu

To drive consumers to the campaign website – takeabenylinday.co.uk.

Strategy and plan

Munro & Forster worked with the British Chambers of Commerce to survey 1,000 UK employers to find out their views on
emp­loyee sick days. The results showed 73 per cent of bosses would prefer a sick employee to stay at home to recover.

The survey also revealed that, in the current economic climate, employees are more hesitant than ever to take a sick day.

In the first wave of activity, Munro & Forster distributed these results to the national and regional media, along with information about the Take a Benylin Day campaign.

A second wave of activity in the peak cold and flu period (early January) remin­ded consumer journalists about the

When the Federation of Small Busines­ses (FSB) made a complaint about the TV ad in January, Munro & Forster used it to drive debate around the campaign to the forefront of the media agenda.

The Daily Mail broke the story on 6 Jan­uary, reporting on the FSB’s complaint and McNeil’s response (provided by Munro & Forster).

Measurement and evaluation

The story ran on Sky News (bulletins and feature pieces) and Channel Five on the afternoon and evening of 6 January, all featuring a response from McNeil. BBC News at Ten then ran the story later on that day, with the segment including a res­ponse from JWT, Benylin’s advertising agency.

Additional broadcast and print coverage included Reuters, Daily Star, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, the Financial Times, The Independent, The Sunday Times and the Evening Standard.

The Sunday Times covered the story in its ‘Top stories from the UK’ section. Haymarket title Campaign’s editor Claire Beale wrote Benylin had ‘come out fighting’ following the criticism from the FSB, and ‘had done what all the best PR is supposed to do’.


The phrase ‘taking a Benylin day’ became a familiar term within the consumer media. In an article referring to Tony Blair’s visit to the US to collect a Medal of Honour, Daily Telegraph religion editor and former PR man George Pitcher suggested that he just ‘take a Benylin day’ to avoid embarrassment.

On 14 January it was even used in thelondonpaper’s fashion pages, and an article on sick days in the Daily Star used the headline ‘Amazing excuses for a Benylin day’.

The number of visitors to the website jumped almost ten-fold in two days, from 1,000 visitors on 4 January to more than 10,000 on 7 January. The number of page views increased by a massive 52,000.


Second Opinion

Lorna Baxter
Director and partner, head of healthcare PR at Fleishman-Hillard

This was a solid, straightforward and well-executed consumer healthcare PR campaign that received a very lucky break thanks to the intervention of the Federation of Small Businesses in making a complaint.

I wonder if the campaign would have generated all the debate and coverage without that? Full credit to Munro & Forster for making the most of the opportunity and linking in with the peak cold and flu period in early January in order to give the campaign a well-timed second lease of life.

The first wave of activity around the release of its survey garnered limited interest from the media (picked up only online and on radio) but with the FSB displeased and rather vocal (YouTube: ‘UK business sniffy over advert’ ), interest in the campaign grew exponentially with coverage spanning a range of media and generating widespread and lively debate.

But full credit to Munro & Forster for getting the basics right and for due diligence in terms of the upfront research.
It also did well in getting key stakeholders behind it (the British Chambers of Commerce) so that it was able to capitalise on the situation, be unapologetic and stick to its guns.

It would be interesting to see more outcomes (sales) and to hear what Munro & Forster has planned to extend the campaign.

One thing is true – ‘take a Benylin day’ has become a recognised phrase and entered the vernacular – but for how long?

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