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Marco says no to salt

World Hypertension Day 2009 – raising awareness of high blood pressure

Published: 20 Sep 2010

'Too much salt' written into a pile of salt spread out on a counter

Client: Novartis Pharma AG

Agency: Ruder Finn

Campaign: World Hypertension Day 2009

Timescale: May 17, 2009

A quick look

World Hypertension Day (WHD) is a key milestone each year for awareness raising and education, but media interest in high blood pressure is low. In 2009, WHD organisers chose a global theme of ‘Salt and high blood pressure’, a topic that had recently been the focus of other campaigns in some key markets. To overcome this double challenge, Ruder Finn developed a creative and engaging strategy based on local insights that brought the theme to life, overcame media fatigue and delivered significant coverage that inspired over 170,000 people to request information or attend blood pressure monitoring events across 32 countries.


For the past four years, Novartis Pharma AG has sponsored the World Hypertension League’s World Hypertension Day (WHD). In 2009, the theme was ‘Salt and high blood pressure; two silent killers’. High salt consumption causes high blood pressure in three in 10 adults and if salt intake was reduced by half, it would save approximately 2.5m deaths a year from strokes and heart attacks. Despite this, the link between high blood pressure and salt intake has limited media appeal and low public awareness.

Ruder Finn was challenged with surpassing previous years’ efforts in terms of country participation, coverage and attendance at screenings and events. The following targets were agreed:

•    15m impressions, including two global broadcast items, on or around WHD
•    Over 28 Novartis affiliates implementing local activities
•    Global campaign and materials used by 50% of participating affiliates
•    Support and advise affiliates on implementation to generate over 250m impressions around the world
•    Over 50,000 people to receive literature or attend events.


Ruder Finn brought the campaign theme to life by capitalising on the huge popularity of celebrity chefs. They appointed Marco Pierre White, personally affected by high blood pressure, as a global media ambassador and focal point for the campaign. Through an exclusive salt-free recipe, a prestigious media day at his restaurant and a b-roll of Marco making the recipe, this high-profile personality created instant media interest and resonated with patients. Novartis affiliates were provided with a suite of materials including creative event ideas, impactful images and country specific statistics. At the Novartis headquarters, various events were held including competitions and salt-free recipes for the staff canteen. 


Ruder Finn exceeded all the targets. Global coverage generated 23m impressions and three global broadcast items. 32 Novartis affiliates took part, and 90% of them utilised the key messages. In total, 32 countries participated in events, numerous impactful campaigns were rolled out and over 350m impressions were generated worldwide. 111,000 people attended events worldwide and a staggering 60,000 people had their blood pressure measured. Japan broke the Guinness World record for number of people screened and Turkey negotiated a public service announcement during Eurovision Song Contest.

Client verdict

Ameet Nathwani, Global Head CVM Development Franchise, Novartis Pharma AG: “World Hypertension Day 2009 was a huge success for the Novartis CVM franchise with a creative and impactful campaign which raised awareness of high blood pressure worldwide. The innovation and creativity shown by Ruder Finn and the high calibre adaptation and implementation by our in-country affiliates, have allowed Novartis to enjoy the most successful World Hypertension Day to date, positioning us as leaders in the cardiovascular healthcare field.”

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