Ahead of the 2007 flu season, the Florida Department of Health decided to take on a new approach to pandemic preparedness – instead of implementing an information intensive campaign, the health department opted to create a campaign that focused on encouraging the adoption of behaviors that would help to slow the spread of the flu. Designed to reach the general public, the goal of the campaign was to promote four actions recommended by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: (1) washing hands often, (2) covering coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or tissue, (3) staying home when sick, and (4) stocking up in case of a pandemic emergency. Campaign messages promoted desired behaviors by highlighting the consequences of ignoring hygienic norms. A character known as the “fifth guy” was created to bring these messages to life – in each of his appearances he would fail to engage in hygienic behaviors and spread germs, ultimately disgusting his peers and suffering social consequences. The fifth guy was used in television and radio spots, was featured on billboards, posters, and print ads, and had an online presence through his own website and MySpace page. Additionally, an actor playing the fifth guy went on a state-wide tour where he participated in 18 television and radio interviews alongside a health department professional and visited highly populated downtown areas where he handed out fliers promoting better hygiene and directed people to the campaign website. Visitors to the webpage could take a hygiene quiz, find information on each target behavior, access print campaign materials, and browse clips of all television and radio spots which were made available in English, Spanish, and Creole. In addition to the fifth guy, additional strategies were implemented that focused primarily on encouraging hygienic behaviors and were developed, tested, and implemented in Spanish and Creole to meet the specific needs of Florida’s Hispanic and Haitian communities. A post-intervention survey was conducted in the second week after television spots stopped running to gauge public awareness of the campaign. Results showed that 29% of respondents reported recognizing the “fifth guy” brand or campaign tagline and in almost all markets where the campaign ran, individuals exposed to campaign messaging were significantly more likely to have been practicing at least one of the recommended behaviors when compared to the sample as a whole.
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