PhRMA highlights hardworking scientists, cutting-edge meds in new reputation-saving effort

PhRMA is aiming to “showcase the industry’s unsung heroes" with its latest campaign, EVP Robby Zirkelbach said this week.

“Bold” isn’t just a buzzword for Allergan anymore. It’s now a key part of the message the entire biopharma industry is pushing to save its reputation.

Earlier this week, trade group PhRMA unveiled a multiyear, multimillion-dollar effort dubbed “GoBoldly” that it believes will “showcase the industry’s unsung heroes driving cutting-edge advances in science,” it said in a statement. As part of the campaign, the group plans to roll out TV, print, digital, radio and out-of-home advertising across the country.

The first GoBoldly TV commercial, a 60-second spot called “Do Not Go Gentle,” hits the “cutting edge” theme hard. A British narrator reads the Dylan Thomas poem of the same name—“Do not go gentle into that good night, old age should burn and rage at close of day; rage, rage against the dying of the light”—over images of cells dividing, blood swirling in test tubes and patients lying in hospital beds, to name a few. Fast-paced music kicks in, and images of determined, hardworking lab scientists flash across the screen, interspersed with the words, “When an indomitable will to cure pushes researchers to find the unfindable and cure the incurable, today’s breakthroughs become tomorrow’s medicines for all of us.”

The way PhRMA sees it, the poem “really captures what our industry does every day,” as PhRMA EVP Robby Zirkelbach told reporters at a Monday briefing. “ ...They fight to the very end to try to try to do everything that they can to improve and extend lives around the country. We felt like it really, more than anything, brought to life what we mean by go boldly,” he said, calling the spot a “rallying cry for a lot of the industry.”

The spot ends with a quick run-through of some of the industry’s latest advances, with the words “personalized medicine,” “immunotherapy” and “genomics” popping up in quick succession.

Print ads also rolled out this week, bearing lines such as “Going after cures isn’t for the faint of heart,” “There is no tiptoeing into the unknown,” and “Magellan and Columbus explored new worlds, but nothing like this.”

PhRMA isn’t stopping there, though. In a couple of weeks, it’ll be along with another ad, “Cells,” that depicts a self-destructing cancer cell.

“This is not a video game. This is not a screensaver. This is the death of a cancer cell turning in on itself thanks to medicine that didn’t exist until now,” the voiceover said in a rough cut shown to reporters. The words, “Welcome to the future of medicine where researchers leap into the unknown to pioneer tomorrow’s breakthrough cures for all of us,” follow across the screen.

The advertising will go live at goboldly.com, Zirkelbach said, and PhRMA has also retooled the website innovation.org to make it “a publishing platform” and “an opportunity for our scientists to talk about ... what they’re doing, the exciting science, where it’s happening,” both in video and written format, he said.

One thing missing from PhRMA’s new creative: A response to the “price-gouging” claims from the public and politicians that put the dent in the industry’s reputation in the first place. The broader campaign won’t include any direct mention either, though it will feature public affairs activities meant to “engage people all across the country in a conversation around value and innovation and how we can make the healthcare system work better for patients,” Zirkelbach said.

Some individual drugmakers have already played around with messaging similar to that in the new campaign. Allergan, of course, adopted the word “bold” as part of its mantra after completing its transformation from Actavis, while Pfizer last year rolled out a spot showing the behind-the-scenes story of a compound’s journey through the clinic. Merck KGaA, meanwhile, has been playing up its futuristic side since it rebranded in late 2015.

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