Best Integrated Engagement Strategy Award

Healthcare Engagement Strategy Awards 2010

Award: Best Integrated Engagement Strategy
Winner: Get Real. Get a Prescription

One of the things we like about the ‘Get Real. Get a Prescription’ campaign is the way health stakeholders concerned about patient safety in the UK, worked in partnership to educate consumers about the risk of buying medicines online through unregistered pharmacies.

The result of this collaboration between Pfizer, UK government regulator the MHRA, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB), and patient groups like HEART UK and the Patients’ Association, was a hard-hitting advertisement shown first in cinemas and then, after an initial analysis of effectiveness, on UK television.

The advertisement was backed by digital resources to intercept consumers’ response. Online, the campaign tackled the counterfeit websites head-on with a paid search campaign that intercepted searches for online pharmacies and directed Internet users to a website where they could find resources to help them buy medicines online safely.

In a year when pharmaceutical companies were treading very carefully when it came to digital advertising, we like the way Pfizer innovatively used paid search to achieve an important patient safety outcome in the UK.

I asked Andrew Widger, Associate Director, Communications UK/Europe at Pfizer, about the online component of the campaign. He told me why it was important:

“Working online itself was an important element, as evidence shows that a high proportion of illicit medicine purchases are conducted via the web, and through the web site we were able to direct consumers in the way we set out to, explain more about the campaign, and employ a variety of strategies to try and intervene directly in that online illicit ‘patient journey’ and ultimately try and change behaviour.”

The UK-focused campaign has reached stakeholders across every aspect of healthcare, providing resources for patients and carers, healthcare professionals, and pharmacists, as well as integrating with resources from the MHRA and RPSGB. Widger says that campaign elements have also been adopted and distributed by NHS Trusts, regional Police Forces in the UK, and major pharmacy chains as well as independents.

The campaign has some great tangible outcomes, too. In the first three weeks of the campaign, 62% of people polled on the campaign website said that the campaign had improved their understanding of the issues, and would change the way they buy medicines.

The campaign was supported by extensive offline advertising using TV, press, outdoor, and through a far-reaching media relations campaign. Meanwhile, online advertising included a partnership with The Sun, and search advertising designed to intercept patients looking for medicine online. Overall, Widger says the online activity has reached 8,796,858 unique users.

I asked Andrew Widger about what lessons have been learned through the campaign. He said there are many learnings, including the way that the campaign was supported by Pfizer medical and legal colleagues, and partner regulatory organisations:

“It should be remembered that while this campaign seems simple – a ‘shocking’ visual representation of the dangers, as a hook to encourage people to find out more – it is firmly rooted in evidence from a variety of sources, and validated by in-house medical colleagues, legal counsel, and partner regulatory organisations. This provided an important basis for the campaign to push boundaries, in terms of memorable creative and the use of new channels and techniques, while being assured that any criticism could be met with robust, evidence based justification.”

Widger also explained that the campaign had to embrace two-way engagement. “We learned that such a campaign could not simply be ‘one way’ – and factored in time and resource to respond to enquiries from the public, and other interested parties as the campaign kicked off. This in itself can often be seen as a challenge in the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry, but is an essential part of maintaining and validating our engagement strategy.

The campaign’s integration with social media channels also required flexibility, as Widger explains:

“We learned a lot about how different tactics can be used, and which are more effective at delivering different messages and results; and that it is important to be flexible, and appreciate that the community may ‘run away’ with your campaign – such as through discussing it and sharing it through twitter, copying and reposting the video to YouTube.

Finally, Widger offers three pieces of advice that others can learn from Pfizer’s strategy:

  1. “Be brave – if a message is worth delivering, it is worth investing in the time to be creative.
  2. “Be prepared – if you want people to take notice, and discuss your campaign and its messages, you need to be prepared to let them do so, and you need to be ready to offer further guidance, or respond to enquiries, or offer support to people and groups who want to join in – for example, we didn’t expect a local police force to adopt our materials.
  3. “Be future proof – develop resources that can grow, change, or be repurposed as your campaign gains momentum. For example, our web assets have all been designed for future growth; while the video advert has been created in such a way that it can quickly be translated and repurposed for other markets. Consequently assets from the Get Real campaign have reached audiences in the Netherlands and Israel to date, and plans exist for use in other countries.”

For its integration of multiple online and offline communications channels, an excellent partnership between a pharmaceutical company, regulators, and patient groups, and for the results of intelligently tackling an Internet-based patient safety issue online, ‘Get Real. Get a Prescription’ is awarded Healthcare Engagement Strategy Award 2010, Best Integrated Engagement Strategy.


View all Healthcare Engagement Strategy Awards 2010 winners.

Apply the insights: you can learn how to apply the strategies, experiences, and outcomes of all the winners of the Healthcare Engagement Strategy Awards 2010 in our special international seminar roadshow in the USA & Europe. Find out more or reserve your place.

Daniel Ghinn

Daniel Ghinn is Editor of Healthcare Engagement Strategy and CEO of Creation Healthcare, the online market research consultancy for healthcare. He is a prolific writer and speaker on emerging trends healthcare engagement in the digital age.