Letters from patients to scientists are at the heart of a new Pfizer-sponsored content campaign with the Boston Globe’s BG BrandLab.
The first installment of “Dear Scientist” debuted with a letter from Nancy Horwood, whose mother has had Parkinson’s disease for 25 years. In one of the videos produced by the content studio, David Gray, Pfizer’s senior director in its neuroscience research unit, reads the letter, brushing back tears at times, before meeting Horwood and her mother.
The Parkinson’s story, and two others appearing later in the "Dear Scientist" series, are meant to point up the fact that pharma researchers aren’t just scientists doing lab work to develop drugs, but are also dedicated and determined people who chose their jobs so that they could help others and save lives. The Pfizer campaign is the first pharma effort for the BG BrandLab.
“The headlines about the pharma industry tend to be either very black and white—this drug passed phase 1, phase 2 or phase 3 and is moving on, or it didn’t pass,” said Doug Most, head of BG BrandLab. "What we don’t see is the work that’s going on behind the scenes. That there are scientists at these pharmaceutical giants who devote half of a lifetime or a whole career to developing a single drug for a single disease to help thousands or millions of people.”
In the video, Gray tells Horwood, “I personally believe we’re going to find a cure and I don’t say that lightly. It’s not going to be in the next couple of years. To me it has all the hallmarks of something we can solve.”
She responds by telling him she is grateful for the work he does and said she hopes that although her mother can’t get the last 25 years back, maybe he can give that time to someone else.
While Pfizer is the first pharma company the content studio has created a program for, Most said BrandLab's business has quadrupled overall in the past year. With a prime biotech and pharma location in Boston, and particularly the Cambridge area, he’s hopeful for more pharma clients.
The Pfizer series will continue through the end of the year, with the next patient and researcher story set to debut next week. BrandLab will promote the work through all its channels, including digital and social media, and maintain the landing page on its site indefinitely.
The new sponsored content work builds on Pfizer's marketing theme featuring the work of its scientists. Its initiative “Driven to Discover a Cure” began in 2016 with an anthemic mainstream TV ad highlighting the work of its scientists and researchers called "Before it Became a Medicine." The effort also included online minidocumentaries featuring scientists. Its first told the story, and portrayed the eventual meeting, of Pfizer cancer researcher Bob Abraham and a young man named Matt, a cancer survivor now studying for his Ph.D. to be just like the guy who saved his life.
Adding to the campaign this summer, Pfizer debuted another TV ad centered on Pfizer scientist Rosemary Orciari, who survived non-Hodgkin lymphoma as a child and now works in Pfizer’s oncology research operation.
Using pharma researchers in marketing has become a wider spread theme in the industry looking to burnish its image. PhRMA's "GoBoldly" effort includes matching up researcher and patient perspectives in its online "Together" series. BIO's "Time is Precious" campaign begun last year also points up the innovations and value of the work biopharma scientists are doing.