Pfizer's Lyrica team matches the spokesman to the message

Many pharma companies create DTC efforts around a branded product, but plenty of drugmakers go the disease education route, too. So when is the right time to use each? That all depends on the population a pharma is trying to reach, and as Pfizer ($PFE) found recently, sometimes they can be used simultaneously to get targeted messages across to different patient groups.

With its DTC efforts surrounding diabetic nerve pain drug Lyrica, Pfizer wanted to breach diagnosis barriers in black and Hispanic patients, both of whom diabetes affects disproportionately, Pfizer's Lisa Lieberman, director of U.S. Lyrica marketing, and Leslie Forte, a company senior manager, recently explained at this year's DTC National Conference.

But as the company quickly found, those barriers varied by population. In black patients, Pfizer found a mistrust of the overall healthcare system, meaning "going out with a branded campaign was not going to be the right choice," Lieberman said. Instead, the company needed "a voice within the community that many patients really, really trust," and who had a personal connection to the condition.

In Hispanic patients, the problem was a language gap. There was a "very distinct difference in how the key symptomology around neuropathic pain … was described," Lieberman said, meaning healthcare providers didn't always realize what the problem was. In this case, Pfizer needed someone from within the community who could detail a personal experience and explain how he or she spoke up to a doctor.

Enter two very different campaign faces: Cedric the Entertainer, whose father suffered from neuropathic pain, and Daniel, a man from the Austin, Texas, area who had been on the journey from diagnosis to treatment.

Like their spokesmen, the campaigns were very different from each another, too. Cedric fronted the Step on Up campaign, on which Pfizer partnered with the American Diabetes Association to release a PSA during American Diabetes month. For Daniel's TV spots, Pfizer conducted interviews in English and also brought on a Spanish-speaking journalist to do an interview in Spanish for a "degree of authenticity around his responses."

While Daniel's commercials aired more recently, Pfizer already has data on the performance of Cedric's PSA--and it worked. The announcement is "performing exceptionally well," according to Pfizer, ranking in the top 8% of PSAs being aired and drawing its fair share of national media coverage. Cedric's appearances on programs like "The View" have driven major Web traffic spikes, Forte said, and beyond that, 14,000 people have completed an online diabetic nerve pain assessment--results from which the campaign encouraged them to print out and bring to a doctor.

So with both campaigns said and done, what's the takeaway? In Pfizer's view, pharma companies contribute to diagnosis barriers, too; they're perpetuated by the way drugmakers communicate, interact and engage with different patient groups. "We're very hopeful that the right message, communicated with the right voice, through the right channels can really make a difference," Lieberman said.

- watch the Step on Up PSA
- view the Daniel spot

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