PRINTED TOOLS OF PUBLIC RELATIONS
Category 12 - Specialty Item
Fifth Guy Campaign
Salter>Mitchell, Florida Department of Health
Award of Distinction


Research/Situation Analysis
: The Florida Department of Health (DOH) wanted a statewide campaign to convince Floridians to prepare for an influenza pandemic, such as avian or bird flu. They contracted with Marketing for Change and Herrle Communications Group (sister companies merged into one as Salter>Mitchell following this successful collaboration) to develop and implement a social marketing campaign to motivate Floridians to take action. Qualitative research showed, and quantitative research confirmed, that most Floridians doubted a pandemic would happen or, if it did, affect them personally. They had a point: No one knows when (or if) a pandemic might hit so pitching panic would have little, if any, effect.  But our research identified targeted behaviors that could be impacted. By focusing on behaviors instead of awareness – we could achieve DOH’s goal of making Florida a less fertile ground for the spread of harmful viruses.  The targeted behaviors included washing hands often, covering coughs or sneezes with an arm or tissue (not a bare hand) and staying home from work when sick with the flu.  So how do you get people to actually do things that their mothers have been harping on for years?  You make it embarrassing to be caught doing otherwise. According to national data from the American Society for Microbiology, four out of five people wash their hands after using the restroom.  The campaign slogan became “Four out of five people wash their hands after using the restroom. Let’s talk to the Fifth Guy.”

Objectives: (1) Utilize research to develop a memorable statewide campaign that motivates Floridians to adopt three hygienic behaviors that can help limit the spread of harmful viruses; (2) Create a specialty item that can be utilized in the campaign to generate buzz about social norms related to poor hygiene and the human-to-human spread of harmful viruses; (3) Enhance a meager paid advertising budget by implementing public relations strategies over an eight-week period that generates media coverage and exposure through traditional and non-traditional media.

Implementation: With a limited budget for paid media and a huge target audience (the 18.25 million residents of Florida) we needed to use public relations to help change Floridians hygienic behavior. Our approach: Build buzz by creating the “Fifth Guy,” a celebrity anti-hero; the disgusting guy nobody wants to be and every reporter wants to talk to. With the campaign character in place, we realized the Fifth Guy needed a visual sidekick to play up his poor hygiene antics. What better compliment to his over the top gross behavior than a life-sized urinal to carry around in public, on television and during interviews. We knew we needed a lightweight and portable urinal that looked real. We contacted a film production company in New York City that specialized in props to make it happen. Using the mold of a real urinal found in a men’s restroom, the company used a foam-filling and a shiny plastic coating to create the life-sized urinal. The flushing mechanism on the fake urinal is real hardware found in a stall and the basin of the urinal was painted a light blue to represent water. In television ads, the Fifth Guy is seen carrying the urinal through his office, coughing and infecting his co-workers with germs.  In addition to TV, radio, billboards and shopping cart advertisements, we used viral emails to promote the Fifth Guy commercials on YouTube and other social media Web sites. We also designed a Fifth Guy Web site that allowed people to “talk to the Fifth Guy” virtually. Salter>Mitchell/Herrle Communications Group then launched a statewide media tour featuring the Fifth Guy.  For four weeks the Fifth Guy and his fake urinal traveled the state of Florida to spread the news about bad hygiene, with local DOH medical staff playing the straight man to the comedic Fifth Guy. The approach worked – TV anchors and radio personalities alike were laughing and joking with the Fifth Guy as he delivered a hilarious, ad-libbed performance holding his urinal. A few reporters conducted their interviews in the men’s room of the station. The media tour took the Fifth Guy statewide and nearly every media outlet we visited (a total of 18 stations) posted photos and interviews about the Fifth Guy campaign on their Web sites. We also found ways to personally introduce the Fifth Guy to Floridians. From the streets of downtown Orlando to Florida highway rest stops and tourist attractions, we escorted the Fifth Guy and his fake, life-sized urinal to meet people, take photographs and handout campaign fliers. The Fifth Guy’s MySpace page quickly filled up with pictures of those we met and messages asking to post more photos.

Evaluation: (1) Floridians have cleaned up their act. In almost every area, the population exposed to the campaign was significantly more likely to be doing the target actions than the sample as a whole. Pre- and post-campaign research revealed that when looking at hand washing, those exposed to the prevention campaign reported: Washing their hands more in a typical afternoon than those not exposed to the campaign (6.57 times vs. 5.6 times); “Always” washing their hands more than those not exposed to the campaign after using a public restroom (100% vs. 94.5%); after coughing or sneezing (30.4% vs. 27.6%); and after blowing their nose (41.4% vs. 37.8%). Exposure to the campaign also correlated with an increase in behavior adoption for covering coughs and sneezes and staying home when sick. 2) The Fifth Guy’s success truly is contagious. The states of Missouri, Idaho, Maine, several counties in Ohio, and the cities of Sacramento and Los Angeles have picked up the Fifth Guy campaign and he, along with his urinal, continue to generate media coverage. The University of Central Florida created their own 5th Guy-themed campaign and asked students to submit YouTube video entries to teach themselves and their friends how to stay healthy by adopting the campaign behaviors. (3) Our virtual campaign triggered record web traffic and tens of thousands of views on sites like YouTube, Daily Motion, Funny or Die, Google Video, Grouper, Vimeo, Vidlife, Vsocial and Yahoo.  Less than three months after the campaign launched, the video spots had attracted more than 17,000 online views. Media coverage spread the message far beyond Florida’s borders. After visiting18 media outlets over a two-week period, one Miami TV report was picked up by 110 stations nationwide, reaching 3.8 million viewers. The campaign was featured on NBC’s Today Show, USA Today and PR Week.

Budget: PR campaign budget $32,940; staff travel budget for the tour $8,710; Fifth Guy talent fee $10,400; all of the props for the Fifth Guy campaign, including the fake urinal cost a total of $1,400.