Pharma insight on digital marketing, social media, mobile apps, online video, websites and interactive healthcare tools
by Dominic Tyer
Boehringer Ingelheim will start publicly beta-testing its new Facebook game Syrum in March as part of plans to give the social game a 'soft launch'.
Billed as a cross between the hugely popular FarmVille and Pokemon games, Syrum will see players compete to develop lifesaving medicines, run their own laboratories and try to bring new drugs to market.
Or, as the game's website puts it: “The health of the world is at stake and you're the only one that can save us.”
Boehringer's aim with the Syrum is “to build a new communications channel and to enter into a dialogue with stakeholders”, the company's head of online communications John Pugh told PMLiVE.
Speaking at the SMI Social Media in the Pharmaceutical Industry conference in London yesterday he said: “In FarmVille you're able to buy a tractor and send it to your friends. In Syrum you don't have to pay anything, but if perhaps you watch a video for a minute around COPD or answer a quick questionnaire about atrial fibrillation, then you might get that free microprocessor or a little robot for your [Syrum] lab.
“So we see it as a real opportunity to raise disease awareness in a fun and engaging way.”
Drawing parallels with Pfizer UK's hard-hitting Real Danger anti-counterfeiting campaign, Pugh said: “We're hoping that this can also build some bridges [for the industry] as well and explain some of the reasons why we do what we do.”
Parts of the game will try to help explain industry pressures like conducting clinical trials and even the impact of patent expiry on pharma.
Syrum will combine elements of trading cards with Facebook functionality. Players will be able to use the social network's mobile 'check-ins' to earn in-game rewards and connect with their Facebook friends to collaborate on molecule development.
Boehringer hopes to attract as broad an audience as possible, from industry, agencies, healthcare professionals and beyond.
Pugh added: “We're also looking to work with patient groups as well, and we've already started some conversations with some of them, and also with some of the medical schools as well.”
Syrum hasn't yet got a firm launch date after development was delayed by several months to allow improvements to areas like the game's mechanics, its story arc and the addition of some educational material, but Pugh has ambitious goals for it.
“If FarmVille can reach 96m people and I can reach half of a per cent of that, then I'll be really, really happy.”