A lymphoma survivor became a Pfizer scientist. Now she's starring in a TV ad

With the launch of its first image ad, Pfizer wrapped its Midtown Manhattan building with messages about its R&D efforts.

CANNES, France—Pfizer’s science-focused ads are popular at the company, but not just because the ads make employees feel good about what they do. It’s also because they work.

So it’s no surprise that Pfizer is preparing to roll out another TV commercial next month starring one of its own scientists, or that it’s drafting other scientists and employees for its cache of image-building video online.

To win funding for the next phase of the “Driven to Discover a Cure” campaign, Pfizer’s reputation point team, Ed Harnaga and Dana Gandsman, totted up statistics on the first ad’s performance. After six months on the air, “Before it Became a Medicine” had racked up 451 million banner click-throughs. Perceptions of Pfizer improved by 47% among people exposed to the ad, Gandsman said in an interview. 

In that initial TV spot, dozens of scientists moved through labs and meetings. The follow-up ad set to debut in July spotlights just one: Rosemary Orciari, who survived non-Hodgkin lymphoma as a child and now works in Pfizer’s oncology research operation in Groton, Connecticut.

Previewed at the Cannes Lions Health festival, the TV spot begins with children in bed, and steps into their dreams. A girl plucks stars from the sky. Children pilot a windjammer and soar through clouds on beds with wings. Childhood is about dreaming, the voiceover says.

“I dreamed of getting better,” it continues. “And when I did get better, I had a different dream—to make sure no other child had a childhood like mine.”

The media plan for the new spot is in the works now. In the meantime, the company on Wednesday posted a “micromentary” about its vaccine development and manufacturing.

“We want to continue to be out there,” said Gandsman, senior director of reputation communications. “It’s not a one and done.”

Taking the science tack a bit further was natural after Pfizer’s market research showed that while people aren’t fond of pharma, they do love science. In focusing on a single scientist, the new spot was “a way of going a little deeper,” Harnaga said. 

To find their next star, the company asked chiefs at all their labs to look for scientists with personal connections to their choice of career.

“A whole collection of stories rose to the top,” he said.

Orciari has now worked at Pfizer for 25 years. Treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma in children now is the same as it was when she was treated as a child. It’s high-dose chemotherapy that puts kids in the hospital for months at a time, Harnaga said.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Orciari says of searching for a cure. “It’s not going to be fast. But I can tell you one thing: I’m not dreaming.”

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