The “Fifth Guy” campaign illustrates a simple point – most people respect certain hygienic norms. They stay home when they are sick. They cover their cough with their arm or a tissue. And they wash their hands, especially after using the restroom. There is observational data on that: The American Society for Microbiology sent researchers into public rest rooms to watch what people do. They found that four out of five people wash their hands after using the restroom. Thus was born the campaign’s central character: the “Fifth Guy.” In the ads, this fifth guy — played by a wonderful comic actor named Ben Spring — keeps making the wrong choices and suffering the social consequences as a result. The take-away message is: Unless you are staying home when sick, covering your cough with an arm or a tissue, and washing your hands often, you’re a fifth guy, an outlier. That’s the motivation. No one wants to be a fifth guy — to be that one person everyone whispers about.
How the campaign was developed
The Florida Department of Health set out to prepare people for the potential of a flu pandemic, but they faced a tough challenge: No pandemic on the horizon. Most Floridians doubt a pandemic is likely or threatens them personally, and they have a point: No one knows when (or if) a pandemic might hit. So instead of pitching panic, the state, working with the agency Marketing for Change, focused on the behaviors they hoped to change -- a series of hygienic actions such as washing hands, covering coughs and staying home when sick. Then they built the campaign around what does matter to people: Fitting in. Four out of five people wash their hands after using the rest room. So the central character in this new campaign is the proverbial fifth guy, who spreads germs and suffers the social consequences.