Antibiotic resistance is a major European and global public health problem and is, for a large part, driven by misuse of antibiotics. Hence, reducing unnecessary antibiotic use, particularly for the treatment of certain respiratory tract infections where they are not needed, is a public health priority. The success of national awareness campaigns to educate the public and primary care prescribers about appropriate antibiotic use in Belgium and France stimulated a European initiative coordinated by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and named European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD), to take place each year on 18 November. Specific campaign materials, including key messages, logos, slogans and a media toolkit, were developed and made available for use in European countries. The focus of the first EAAD campaign was about not taking antibiotics for viral infections such as colds and flu. A post-campaign survey was conducted in January 2009. Thirty-two European countries participated in the first EAAD, producing information materials and implementing activities to mark EAAD. Media coverage peaked on 18 and 19 November. At EU level, EAAD was launched at a scientific meeting in the European Parliament, Strasbourg. The event received EU political engagement through support from the EU Commissioner for Health, the Slovenian and French EU Presidencies, and Members of the European Parliament. Critical factors that led to the success of the first EAAD were good cooperation and process for building the campaign, strong political and stakeholder support and development of campaign materials based on scientific evidence. Countries indicated wide support for another EAAD in 2009. For this purpose, ECDC is developing several TV spots as well as a second set of EAAD campaign materials targeting primary care prescribers.