Cannes, France – Ed Harnaga, Vice President, Corporate Affairs at Pfizer, started out with a reality we've all struggled with: pharma does so much good and yet it elicits so much hate. It's an exciting time when rare genetic diseases are being cured, once-life-ending-diagnoses are becoming chronic diseases ... and also a time in which the headlines point to our industry as one with too many suits and not enough lab coats; too much profit and not enough empathy. Layer in the last U.S. presidential campaign and recent mergers and acquisitions and the target on our industry became huge, unmissable.
Pfizer did some research to understand people's attitudes. The found:
- People see very little differentiation from company to company
- They feel that medicine is a right and that pharma is standing in the way of their ability to live healthier lives
- 75% thought we were making profit more important than helping people
- Most believe academia - not pharma - is where cures are really created
One of Pfizer's four corporate imperatives is "earn respect from society." They knew they needed to fight the industry stigma. To start, they tested changing the focus. Pharma is only one part of a very complex system. In an ad called "fight club" they showed a doctor in a knock-down-drag-out with a payer before coming back into the exam room, beaten and bloodied, to hand the patient a prescription.
No surprise, it didn't test well.
Finding a Way to Make the Numbers Resonate
Then, Pfizer went into the numbers. They have a lot of them:
- $8 billion in R&D annually
- 1.7 million prescriptions given to patients for free
- 90+ medicines in the pipeline
- 46 drug access programs
But those are just numbers and data. They wouldn't make the emotional impact.
They stepped back and looked at the brands people respect most today. Harnage said, "what we found is that they want to know a brand and what it stands for. They want a brand with a soul. That realization fueled the campaign."
The brief focused on a simple human truth: People hate pharma but love science.
Dana Gandsman, Senior Director, Reputation Communications at Pfizer shared the top three campaigns the brand considered.
- Motivational speakers: This campaign came from the patient perspective. It showed real people saying, "if you don't stop working, I won't stop hoping" to Pfizer scientists. The test audiences didn't like it. They said it made people sad and didn't offer a solution.
- Mad scientist: This campaign was all about the drive to discover. Pfizer scientists said they were mad – mad that there wasn't a cure, that there was more to do. People didn't see the solution or the emotional impact.
- Before it became a medicine: The selected campaign was shared from the perspective of Pfizer scientists. It shows the inspiration, the numbers, the relentless drive. Each spot and video shows the personal stories of both patient and scientist.
Oh, and, p.s. some of their scientists are members of SAG now.
The campaign went to TV, instagram, Facebook, Twitter and all over their building. In fact, they wrapped each of their main corporate buildings in the campaign to fuel employee pride.
They reached 1.4 billion people via television and 900 million via social channels.