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Experience me: building engagement through experience

Connected brand experiences can drive social conversation and deeper engagement

Experience Me

It's about the time of the year, when the great and the good from the world of consumer advertising pack their bags and head off to the Cannes Festival of Creativity. Now in its 60th year, a Cannes Lion remains the equivolent of the Champions League when it comes to rewarding creativity.

For me, there is one entry in this year's awards that highlights both the future of pharmaceutical marketing and the role of the modern healthcare advertising agency. Importantly, it's not an ad, not a detail aid, not even a website. It's a documentary. 

It tackles the challenge of convincing clinicians of the impact that the condition hepatic encephalopathy (HE) has on patients and their families, and thus stresses the need for more effective treatment. The company behind it, Salix Pharmaceuticals, could have been forgiven for creating a nice patient-focused ad campaign or even the ubiquitous patient profile (actually it did these as well). More impactfully, however, it commissioned a world-renowned documentary film maker to produce a 30 minute short exposing the brutal reality of HE.

The resulting work, Wrestling the Monster, makes for gritty, edgy and, at times, uncomfortable viewing. But it does the job brilliantly, and you are left in no doubt that this condition is one that rips families apart. At a viewing of the documentary, clinicians admitted it showed them an aspect of the disease of which they were previously unaware. 

What Salix realised is that brands are no longer defined solely by beautifully-crafted ads or the four key messages of the detail aid, but by a series of connected brand experiences, experiences that drive both social conversation and deeper engagement. Creating these experiences is the role of the modern healthcare advertising agency. 

If video fails to work, watch Wrestling the Monster by Cynthia Wade online at

From big ideas to big ideals 
For some time now consumer brands have stopped searching for the big creative idea, and instead work with their agency partners to find the big ideal. Standing for something that your audience really cares about has long become the mantra of modern branding.

A great example of this is the global shoe and eyewear brand Toms. The company has a simple big ideal: 'With every product you purchase, Toms will help a person in need, donating a pair of shoes or offering sight saving surgery to children in over 50 developing countries.'

It's a big ideal that has propelled the brand from the obscure to a true global player.

Find the disease 'ideal' and then pull
In many ways standing for something your audience really cares about is a much simpler task for pharma than consumer brands. Clinician, patient, payer and brand all have a shared desire - the disease of course. It's true that defining the specifics of that desire and creating experiences that deliver on it, are where the challenge for pharma resides.

Traditionally, pharma pushed its brand lead messages toward a static audience. However, in today's connected world consumers hold the power and can more easily choose to avoid pushed promotion. So, supplementing traditional advertising with a pull-based strategy of brand experiences that add real and sustainable value to their audience is fast becoming the norm.

Consumer brands now search for the 'big ideal'. Standing for something your audience cares about is the mantra of modern branding

Janssen's award-winning campaigns in ADHD are a great example of this approach in operation. The work spans YouTube interactive video, patient and carer mobile apps and engaging clinician self-guided detail, all hosted within relevant clinician communities.

It's proof that the opportunity for pharma brand promotion to move beyond just advertising and detail aid has never been greater; be it social, mobile, augmented reality, film, flash mob, animation or even a documentary.

Article by
Jon Lee

is managing director of CDM London

17th June 2013

From: PME



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