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Case study: Overcoming resistance

Campaign highlighting the unnecessary use of antibiotics

Published: 24 Sep 2014


Treat Yourself Better

Client: Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) and Pharmacy Voice

Agency: Red Door Communications

Campaign: Treat Yourself Better Without Antibiotics

Timescale: November 2013 – February 2014

A quick look

Treat Yourself Better Without Antibiotics is a public health campaign highlighting the unnecessary use of antibiotics for symptoms of winter ailments. The campaign educated the public on normal symptom duration and provided advice on what they could do to better treat themselves with pharmacy support, keeping them out of GP surgeries and A&E.

Media activity generated 76 articles reaching an audience of over 400 million. Over 20,000 people visited the website and the campaign logo featured on 18 television and print advertisements from stakeholders. Post-campaign consumer research showed the campaign reached 29 per cent of the population and generated a positive shift in behaviour.


Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem. In the UK over 60 per cent of antibiotic prescriptions are written by GPs for people with upper respiratory tract infections. Even though they know they are ineffective, GPs find it hard to say no because patients ‘shop around’ for another GP or worse they go to A&E. That increases pressure and costs for the NHS. 

Additionally, research shows that people are not aware of the normal symptom duration of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) and so visit the GP typically after 4-7 days to seek reassurance, but also expecting an antibiotic prescription.

Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) and Pharmacy Voice wanted a campaign that told people how to deal with winter symptoms in order to help tackle both problems.


There were three main strands to the campaign:

  1. Key stakeholders were asked to add the microsite URL and campaign logo (designed by Red Door Communications) to their own websites and include it on relevant advertising; use social media to drive people to the website; and reference the campaign in their media outreach.
  2. A website was developed by DJM Digital Solutions. It hosted a daily symptom checker, told consumers what symptoms to expect, how long symptoms typically lasted and what they could do to treat themselves without going to their GP, unless red flags (“warning signs”) were present. Two videos with GP Dr Rob Hicks and community pharmacist Raj Patel were hosted on a bespoke YouTube channel and on the website.
  3. A comprehensive traditional and social media press office raised awareness of the campaign in the consumer media and online.


A stakeholder and member company digital toolkit was actively used in educational and promotional communications by: Boots, Tesco, The Co-operative Pharmacy, Rowlands Pharmacy, NPA, Pfizer, Reckitt Benckiser, Novartis, GSK, J&J, stakeholders including Public Health England, the NHS and Department of Health, and numerous CCGs and GP practices up and down the country.

The campaign logo/URL featured in four television advertisements, 14 print and billboard advertisements, on eight PAGB member websites and 10 other stakeholder websites.

The campaign generated 76 pieces of media coverage with an estimated reach of an audience of more than 400 million. There were more than 500,000 social media mentions of the campaign and its key messages, resulting in more than 20,000 unique visitors to the campaign website.

Post campaign research shows that 29 per cent of the population (11 million people) were aware of the campaign: 50 per cent visited a pharmacist; 28 per cent purchased an over-the-counter medicine; and 22 per cent actively did not seek to get an antibiotic from their GP.

Client verdict

“Treat Yourself Better Without Antibiotics is an excellent initiative and the first of its kind for the OTC industry. For a campaign of a very modest budget which was delivered in a mere six weeks to raise awareness amongst 11 million people is a fantastic result,” Matthew Speers, chief executive, PAG

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Life is a creative communications agency offering multi-channel solutions for the healthcare industry. We use a storytelling approach to turn...