Winning awards with pharma campaigns, but winning minds for pharma?

Congratulations to Profero, but to #hcsmeucamp attendee and #hcsmeu stalwart Sam Walmsley in particular, for having won the Grand Prix and Best in Pharma for their In Bed campaign (website; YouTube channel) on behalf of Bayer Schering’s Levitra at last night’s Revolution Awards.

In my opinion, it was a creative, well executed campaign and fully deserved to take the laurels in a year when many digital agencies would appear to outsiders to have underachieved as they continue to struggle to convince pharma to embrace the extraordinary potential of new media to engage the constituencies they want to connect with.

That said, as a patient-facing initiative, I would deem the In Bed YouTube campaign to have been no more than moderately successful.

Despite the world-famous animation house Aardman of Wallace and Gromit fame – whose services doubtless do not come cheaply – having done a terrific job of bringing a tight story-board to life, and a well-coordinated promotional campaign, 7 of the 9 videos in the series only managed to attract an average of 1,365 views. Of the remaining videos, which were also the first and last in the series, the former has delivered 5, 149 views to date, the latter 124,372.

Whilst this pair of numbers looks healthier at first glance, they also point to the fact that the series lost around 75% of its viewers after the first episode, and demonstrates that as an attempt to cash in on the viral potential of any sex-themed video on YouTube, the final installment was a flop (no pun intended… well, maybe just a bit), producing only 4% of the average number of views in the current (NSFW) top 20 results on YouTube featuring ‘sex’ in the title (average views: 3,230,295).

In an industry still obsessed with metrics and returns on investment, does this constitutes a successful campaign to engage ED patients? Take out the number of viewers of the videos from the industry itself, and how many views are you left with? Will it encourage or dissuade clients from using YouTube in the future?

I would deem the physician-facing parallel campaign, In Bed Dr flat-out disappointing with its 60 – count ’em – uniformly boring (sorry, but they just are) talking head videos managing to elicit an average of seven views each. Again, how many of them were healthcare professionals? Is this a model for digital healthcare professional engagement?

Taking nothing away from Profero, one does have to ask on the basis of the above: who got more out of this campaign? The agency, or the brand that hired them?

21 thoughts on “Winning awards with pharma campaigns, but winning minds for pharma?

  1. Two thoughts on this great post:

    1. the number one ranking educational video on ED is this one:
    and it features 455,244 views… isn’t that the real benchmark to go for?

    2. I tried to check out the videos, but had to sign into my you tube account, so had to look up my password, which I had forgotten as usual… and then gave up.

    The above mentioned video is accessible only upon confirmation of the birthdate. Much easier, esp. if people 1. do not have a youtube account or 2. might not want this video prominently displayed on their play list.

    I am not slighting the campaign here at all, and will persist in watching it, once I find my password 🙂

    But we also have to remember the real benchmark is what is out there already.

    Thanks for the great post,


    • Hi Silja

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      All great points, and of which the most important for me is: if you want to make a video about erectile dysfunction that people are going to be able to find and watch, make sure it has the words ‘erectile dysfunction in the title’!

      The maxim ‘obvious is always best’ definitely pertains here.

      I don’t think the In Bed campaign were trying to be either coy or clever in pursuing this line, and the rest of the industry loved it… it’s just that not enough people interested in ED saw the videos.

      I’d be interested to learn what sort of traffic the website element of the campaign attracted.

  2. It’s a shame that’s it’s perceived as the worst of the 3 main drugs available. Ineffective at low doses, effective at higher doses but makes you want to vomit. Giving you the last thing you need when your head is down the toilet!

    At least it can help keep your towel off the floor!

  3. Good post Andrew. I, too, reject the premise – though it can be popular among agencies – that winning awards equals a successful campaign. As agencies and consultants we need to focus more on the end result and KPIs more than great creative that wins awards. Clients, too, can get sidetracked by winning trophies to advance their careers — or choosing agencies that win them for them.

    The “best” campaigns are the ones that met the original objectives — and, perhaps, that in itself is award-winning. The more we can do to help everyone remember what’s most important, the better off we’ll all be. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Hi Wendy

      Thanks for visiting STweM and taking the time to leave a comment. It’s great to have you here!

      Thanks also for that slew of great observations, all of which I whole-heartedly concur with.

      ‘Pretty’ can be one thing; ‘pretty effective’ can often be something altogether different. It’s nice when form and function coincide – and why shouldn’t our work be beautiful? – but that’s just an indulgence if we’re not serving the patient and/or helping the healthcare professional by facilitating effective pharma engagement.

      That supposition is predicated upon our first challenging, then coming to understand, and finally tirelessly redistributing a frank, honest and truthful definition of what effective engagement consists of when it comes to doing what really matters: providing the patient with reliable, relevant, timely, accessible health information, and helping the healthcare professional improve the quality of care at the point of care by focusing on patient outcomes.

  4. In our experience, the most successful campaigns are integrated across many mediums — “new” media like YouTube just being the start. Do you have any information about what other media supported the efforts? If the answer is “none”, that might be the reason views are lower than desired.

    • Hi Casey

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment.

      As I understand it, the site and In Bed & In Bed Dr YouTube channels were the mainstays of the campaign. I can’t speak as to other promotional activities using additional media in support of campaign integration, but am sure we will hear more about this going forward.

  5. Hey Andrew.

    Thanks for picking on up the fabulous news that a pharma campaign has won two important awards for creativity, something we struggle do something well in this industry. We won an award in health/pharma category, but more importantly, we won the grand prix. Our work went head to head with brands and companies like XFactor facebook pages, mashable, twitter, XBox, Spotify, Samsung and WON! This is an credible achievement for our industry.

    Its interesting you have picked on metrics for the global campaign, implying the campaign is not successful. The strategy was to develop content, that the local markets could use. We have delivered a wide range of content and assets the local markets can cherry pick from, that can be socialised and made relevant to their own regulations and requirements.

    As at the end of the day, having language relevant content in places where the local audience are is the most important thing here. The local markets will be the ones investing in SEM, media promotion and PR, not global. The global site has always been a template.

    This campaign clearly showcases pharma and creativity can work hand in hand, as well as producing an insight driven campaign, which the local markets actually want to use.

    Once the local market versions go live and start living & breathing, then maybe its time to talk about metrics and campaign success/failures.

    • Hi Sam

      Thanks for taking the time to compose such a thoughtful comment during what must have been a very busy day.

      Firstly, I’d like you to focus on the C-O-N-G-R-A-T-U-L-A-T-I-O-N-S…. 🙂

      However, the reason I framed this discussion around the In Bed campaign is neither to praise nor pillory an agency or its work – I maintain strict neutrality in this regard on the basis that a) I like to work with everyone, and b) I have a mortgage 😉 – but because at this moment, the spotlight is upon these activities for their having won two prestigious industry awards.

      Not surprisingly, people want to get under the hood and have a poke around.

      For the avoidance of doubt, let me restate that whilst I (and who cares what I think? ;)) *personally* consider the campaign to have been moderately successful on the basis of the patient and HCP engagement it has generated to date, the *general* question I pose above is ‘does [In Bed] constitute an effective campaign to engage ED patients?’

      That’s what I’d like to hear more about.

      Thanks for the strategic context about developing content that local markets could use, but a) how would anyone encountering the campaign on YouTube have known this, b) why should they care, and c) where and when will this local market re-use start occurring, and in what media?

      Again, I hope you’ll appreciate that those currently viewing would have no idea as to the plans there may be for localizing the campaign, but do please set me straight if I’ve missed locally customized campaign content elsewhere online.

      I’m not going to sign off without taking the opportunity to say once again: well done to yourself and Profero for your two-award haul at Revolution 2010.

  6. Sorry for got to say: The doctor videos Q&A are for patients. When they are actively seeking information or have those questions they dont want to ask their doctor, at least there is some credible content out there. Yes videos are hosted on the website, by having them on YouTube this is another way people can find the content. I actually believe this is a way pharma can answer some of the more awkward questions from patients without going into forums etc.

    • Hi Sam

      Thanks for the coda re the In Bed Dr videos, although I do have to ask why if they were conceived as being patient-facing and the intention was to ‘offer another way [for] people to find the content’ what the reasoning was behind locating them in a separate channel?

      Do you think they may have been easier to discover (and have got more traction) if they had been uploaded within the In Bed YouTube channel?

  7. Great post Andrew, and these are excellent points that highlight the problem with so many Awards! IMHO most award-winning pharma work in communications or digital engagement wins for the wrong reasons. That is not to say that it should not necessarily win, but that the reasons why it wins are the wrong ones.

    It’s easy to see how the immediate impact of creative-led campaigns means they float to the top of award judges’ shortlists, and the real question of strategy and results seems to be overlooked in most award processes.

    It was for this very reason that we set up the Healthcare Engagement Strategy Awards last year and announced winning strategies in January 2010 which were more about making a real healthcare difference to patients than the glitzy award ceremony. The selection process included an in-depth behind-the-scenes look at each engagement strategy, so that we could leave a legacy of best practice to inspire even better engagement in 2010 [].

    Andrew, thanks for hosting this important discussion about awards for pharma digital engagement. And Sam, congratulations on your part in the campaign and thanks for your post on the strategy!

    As an aside, I note that this year’s Communiqué Awards have been overhauled “in recognition of the fact that today’s industry seeks to deliver value through quality outcomes as opposed to outputs” [], so maybe there IS hope of a changing mindset amongst the mainstream industry awards? We wait with bated breath…


    • Hi Daniel

      Thanks for stopping by. I think we are indeed seeing a tectonic shift (let’s hope it doesn’t generate any more ash 🙂 ) in what is considered to constitute an ‘effective campaign’.

      Thanks for flagging up the interesting semantic reorientation of the Communiqué Awards ‘from outputs to outcomes’.

      Less chrome, more grit: are agencies ready to rise to the challenge?

      The other issue that is happily percolating away here is: is the only truly effective engagement in the long term going to be conducted in-house by pharma? What sort of shelf-life do agencies have as pharma takes more of an interest in bring the planning, implementation and management of campaigns (will we still call them that? Will they be ‘campaigns’ in the sense that we currently understand?) in-house as the category of ‘engagement specialist’ is redefined?

  8. There are so many disconnects on this program. I agree the web site and the videos were a novel way to approach and educate the target audience, but the doctor videos do not continue the brand and tone of the campaign.

    Finally, you ask who benefits on this one, the agency or the brand, I would say the Agency…clients still get swayed by awards.

    I would ask, what was the total cost of this campaign and what was the return in terms of awareness, education and sales ?

    • Hello Ritesh

      Good to still have you on UK time, although I appreciate you are an unwilling non-dom at the moment! America’s loss is Europe’s gain 🙂

      Yes, I am definitely beginning to sense something approaching a consensus view on this issue.

      I do note certain parties interests in bashing the competition, however 😉

  9. Hi Ritesh, Daniel, and Andrew,

    Just to follow up on the additional posts:

    Would you want an animated character giving you medical advise?! Using a real doctor meant there was a credibility behind his responses, and he gave his own responses which weren’t scripted but the same advise he would give a patient sat in front of him. With the majority of men waiting 2 years to see a doctor, it was important to breakdown the barriers, i do think it works well on the site with the two different medium:

    I had previously not submitted the work to pharma awards, or actually most of my other work at Profero, as frankly been disappointed by either the digital work, or the strategy & insights that have gone into awarding the work. Agreed, we celebrate bad stock image and copyline. We don’t look at a performance based model of success, however how many pharma companies are willing to share success/failures like other sectors? The question about agencies- I have spent a lot of time repairing the mistakes by healthcare agencies with bad digital practices, e.g. flash website which isn’t ranked at all by Google, or multiple websites built for one brand, none of which can be found. Personally very few healthcare agencies or pharma marketing teams get digital, from creativity through to SEM, to social media & PR and how they all work together. So how can we expect healthcare awards to be any different?

    If your awards had more exposure I would have been happy to have submitted a detail strategy and insight (subject to client approval), as don’t you work with the competition?

    At the end of the day, this campaign hasn’t finished. Success for me and the clients will be local market role out and local market success. Which will be based around KPIs. I look forward to seeing more creative and performance based pharma campaigns, as then the industry is really moving forward.

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