BI, Gilead execs highlight value of disease awareness campaigns—particularly during the pandemic

Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly CV and diabetes awareness video still
Disease awareness campaigns, like Boehringer Ingelheim's cardiovascular and diabetes physician effort from last year, are gaining traction as more consumers turn to digital for information. (Boehringer Ingelheim)

Disease awareness campaigns need to go where the patients are, and today that means digital.

That’s even more relevant now during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gilead Sciences and Boehringer Ingelheim marketing execs said during a Tuesday panel session at this year’s Fierce Pharma Marketing's Digital Pharma Innovation Week.

However, they also agreed that patients’ shift to digital had been underway for several years.

“The need to provide unbranded disease education has always been there; that’s not a new phenomenon at all,” said Robert Schildt, Boehringer Ingelheim’s director of cardiovascular marketing. “I think what’s new is that patients are seeking information in new places, so you’ve got a much more savvy audience looking to manage their health and disease conditions. And that was before COVID.”

The pandemic simply exacerbated the need for more relevant information delivered at the right time and where consumers are online.

Gilead Director of Digital Innovation Anand Reddi said the value for unbranded campaigns in sharing trusted medical information is “tantamount” these days.

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Reddi offered an example from Gilead. Its "PrEP Hub" digital platform, rolled out in June, delivers tailored content to people across the spectrum of HIV prevention. From those who don’t know treatments exist, to those who are diagnosed but not on treatment, to people on treatment, every person receives the appropriate level of information, Reddi said. Gilead used social media to target the different segments and draw them to the informational campaign.

The PrEP Hub also includes additional content that's applicable to all those stages, but especially important during COVID-19—such as info on telemedicine, tests for monitoring health and prescription delivery, he said.

Schildt talked about a Boehringer Ingelheim video series from last year that put together a cardiologist host, a dog and a guest physician to raise awareness of diabetes-related heart disease. Inspired by comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” the series looked to engage the target audience—cardiologists, endocrinologists and primary care physicians who treat Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease—in collaborative discussions.

Biohaven CEO Vlad Coric talks about launching Nurtec ODT during the pandemic in the Tuesday keynote at Digital Pharma Innovation Week. 

The result? Seven million views of the series but, more importantly to Schildt, many return visits from people seeking more education. During the pandemic, for instance, physicians dialed into Zoom calls to get more information.

As for the secret to successful unbranded ad campaigns? There is no secret. Both executives agreed disease awareness education requires a case-by-case approach. That said, there are elements for success, such as clear goals and a specific call to action for each effort.

As Reddi said, “There is no one playbook to reach the audiences you’re trying to reach. I think if we’ve learned anything in the last few years, particularly with leveraging technology to reach our audiences, it’s that we have the ability to now really segment content and reach people where they interact.”  

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