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The social side of ADHD

Marketers can maximise engagement through social media, says Jon King

Living with ADHDHere, Jon King, UK managing director at digital content marketing agency Story Worldwide, talks about one of the most successful social media campaigns from 2010 – the award-winning Living with ADHD by Janssen. Story Worldwide worked with Janssen on a campaign to de-stigmatise attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and create positive conversations around the subject. The resulting online film became one of the most successful pharma social media campaigns in Europe.

The marketing of pharmaceuticals is highly regulated and strict rules govern communications to patient support groups and healthcare professionals (HCPs). Much that is taken for granted in other industries is, for good reason, not permissible. It's unsurprising that marketers in this sector have been cautious in adopting new ways to share information about conditions and treatment options, as they need confidence that those methods are fully compliant with the rules.

This presents new problems at a time when a seismic change is underway in media consumption by patients and carers. This audience increasingly looks for information, solutions or support from distributed social networks or websites, which are highly influential and operate outside regulatory frameworks.

While many are authoritative and helpful, some promote anecdotal, partial or ill-informed points of view, making a balanced sharing of medical information increasingly challenging. It's imperative that the pharma industry adapts and responds positively to this audience shift in media consumption.

Recent research by the Healthcare Communications Association estimates that 90 per cent of GPs direct patients to websites to help them feel more fully informed about prescription medications, which reduces the effectiveness of traditional communications collateral.

Here is an overview of the steps taken to achieve the award-winning social media campaign:

Understanding social media's capability
Despite social media's potential, many pharma brands haven't embraced these new channels because they fear losing control of their brand. However, with audiences rejecting en masse broadcast communications, ignoring networks creates a greater risk. People will talk about your brand online whether you want them to or not, and the only way to stimulate positive conversations or create more balanced perceptions is to participate in the space.

The Living with ADHD campaign for Janssen, was designed to leverage and stimulate these positive conversations. The campaign centred around a core piece of arresting video on YouTube that was seeded to key influencers and support networks within ADHD communities, and linked to an informational branded website. This led to more than 130,000 views of the video. It became one of the most successful social media campaigns in Europe by a pharma company and, most importantly, helped improve perceptions and understanding of the condition.

Story Worldwide and Janssen's The Living with ADHD campaign

Confronting the ADHD stigma
ADHD is often misunderstood and misrepresented by the media, making it difficult for patients, and their parents and extended families, to find accurate information on where to go for help. Living with ADHD was designed to be a guide for parents, teachers, HCPs and children, providing them with information about ADHD and where to go for the best advice. Janssen's intent was to provide people with accurate information, presented from a positive standpoint, empowering them throughout the diagnosis process.

Identifying the audience
Janssen wanted to develop an educational website and supporting campaign as a core information resource. The company also wanted to create viral content that could be shared by audiences across their chosen networks. Story's editorial programme was informed by numerous workshops with parents, teachers, children and carers so that the content was fair and honestly reflected the experiences of people with the condition, their carers and support networks, and of HCPs.

Amplification across social channels
Our proposal was a radical departure from traditional pharmaceutical communications, which are typically text heavy, overly technical and often difficult to understand for the lay reader. The campaign was designed to engage audiences emotionally and provoke positive conversations with socially and educationally inclusive content. It was important to use a range of communication models – visual, auditory and written word – to maximise understanding among the many audiences Janssen needed to address. To go viral, the core media had to be rewarding to watch and worth sharing, and had to stimulate comment.

 • Putting ADHD into perspective
We produced a film using the 'rotoscoping' technique in which live action footage is converted through software into a realistic animation. This is then enhanced by colour touching each frame and uses classic animation techniques to create original backgrounds and scenes. We created the film to show what life with ADHD is like from the perspective of a child. The animation melds scenes from the child's day, from school to home, sharing important, authoritative information from teachers and parents to put right misconceptions about the condition.

Prompting a response
By showing how children with ADHD experience daily life, we wanted to encourage the audience to engage emotionally with the issue, endorse the campaign, debate the misconceptions that drove it and share the film with friends, carers and support groups across social media. Above all, we wanted to encourage anyone concerned or affected by ADHD to seek help and advice.

The campaign kicked off with an event attended by key opinion leaders drawn from the healthcare sector, the UK educational system and ADHD support groups. This was followed by seeding the film across the most relevant and influential channels so that it would immediately go viral. It did. We achieved tremendous results.

Driving engagement
Traffic to the Living with ADHD website rose fast, as did conversations around the film and ADHD across the social web.

In just six months the film received more than 132,500 views on YouTube alone, far exceeding the initial target of 60,000 views over a 12-month period and making it one of the most viewed pharma videos in Europe. The campaign won Best Digital Patient Communication Award at the prestigious Pharmaceutical Marketing Society Digital Media Awards 2010.

Creating positive conversations
Unusually for a pharma campaign, Janssen allowed open conversations commenting on the YouTube film, with only a few caveats governing offensive language and banning any product references, whether Janssen's or otherwise. The viewing statistics, amplified by engagement stats, show that viewers wanted to interact with the brand. To date there have been more than 100 comments on the video on YouTube, almost all of them positive, and nearly 1,000 interactions across Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and YouTube. As the campaign has progressed, Janssen has seen visitor numbers to its Living with ADHD site increase considerably. Also the average amount of time spent on the site has grown by more than 20 seconds – significant in a world where consumers are only a click away from a competitor's site.
Maximising the returns from social media
Lastly and most importantly to marketers, Janssen has shown that pharma companies can use social media to great effect. The most important part is understanding the roles each channel performs, and defining clear, measurable communications objectives and return on investment.

Social media delivers long-term value at lower cost and works on the long tail principle even when campaign spend is finished, in contrast with the hard end to traditional advertising models. The Janssen campaign shows that audiences can become loyal advocates so long as the brand is open, honest and trusting.

The challenge and solution
Janssen wanted to create a campaign to provide authoritative and attractive online content about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to provide clarity around the condition.

Instead of a boring 'talking heads' video, Story devised a dynamic through-media campaign, with an award-winning video animation, placing Janssen at the heart of positive and credible conversations about ADHD for a variety of key audiences, such as carers, parents, children and teachers.

The results
• The video is now one of the most viewed pharma videos in Europe, with more than 132,500 views in only six months
• An average of 90+ people visit the Living with ADHD homepage each day
• More than 105 comments on the video have created strong debate around ADHD
• More than 850 social media reactions to the video occurred
• The campaign was named Best Digital Patient Communications at the 2010 PM Society Awards
• The campaign received two nominations at the 2010 APA International Customer Publishing Awards: Best Use of Video and Best Specialist Communication
• Thousands of people shared the clip among their peer groups, amplifying the brand message and campaign cut through.

The Author
Jon King is the managing director of Story Worldwide UK

To comment on this article, email

3rd March 2011


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