Sanofi Pasteur has launched its first consumer advertising for Fluzone Intradermal, featuring a prickly pitch-critter meant to stress the flu vaccine’s extra-thin needle.

Henry the Porcupine, an amiable animated rodent, will serve as the public face of the brand in a multimedia (TV, print and digital) campaign scheduled to run though November. He’s meant to highlight Fluzone Intradermal’s super-thin 1.5mm needle, which the company boasts is 90% thinner than a traditional needle, “smaller than a grain of rice” and about as thick as a penny.

Henry will appear in ads and on materials for the Coop de Quill VacciNation Tour with actor Chris O’Donnell, who is fronting a public education campaign aimed at raising awareness of the herd immunity effect (without calling it that), whereby high rates of vaccination disrupt chains of infection. A Coop de Quill Mini Cooper, paneled in images of the porcupine and fitted with a giant mock-up of a Fluzone Intradermal syringe, will stop in Baltimore, Chicago, Raleigh, San Francisco and Chicago, where clinic pharmacists will be on hand to talk about and dispense vaccinations. Advertising creative is by Kaplan Thaler, while Digitas Health is handling digital marketing, Cooney Waters is handling PR and Saatchi Science outreach to healthcare professionals.

Sanofi is pitching Fluzone Intradermal to adults ages 18-64. It’s the only intradermal flu vaccine indicated for that age group, only two-fifths of which gets an annual flu shot. Children and the elderly, who are more vulnerable, are far better covered. Discomfort could be part of what’s keeping many in that middle group from getting the shot.

“In market research, we’ve seen that for a certain segment of that 18-64 demographic, a smaller needle can result in a better shot experience,” said Sanofi-Pasteur’s US PR head Michael Szumera.

In a survey of 663 adults conducted by Sanofi, 53% of adults ages 18-64 who get an annual shot said their experience would be better if the needle was smaller.

The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of six months get an annual flu vaccination. Each year, one in every five Americans gets the flu, and 226,000 of them wind up in the hospital. Combined with pneumonia, influenza is the nation’s ninth-leading cause of death.

Fluzone won FDA approval last year. Sanofi Pasteur markets three formulations of the vaccine, including Fluzone Intradermal, featuring the ultra-thin needle, a standard version and a High-Dose formulation for adults 65 and up.
The use of anthropomorphic animals is not new to the category. A few years back, Tamiflu maker Roche employed a Happy Feet tie-in to drive traffic to its FluFacts unbranded site.