Empathy at work: GlaxoSmithKline extends Excedrin Migraine campaign to include sufferers on the job

GlaxoSmithKline wants people to understand how their migraine-suffering co-workers can be affected at work. So in its new Excedrin Migraine campaign, three real migraine sufferers talk about how migraines hit them on the job.

One key asset is the use of 360-degree virtual reality videos that overlay each sufferer's migraine symptoms on work situations—one in a busy kitchen with a baker, and another on a frenetic emergency call with an EMT. The campaign builds on last year's empathy-stirring work that centered on migraine sufferers talking to loved ones about what they go through.

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“If we can help foster and facilitate conversation, hopefully that makes the plight of the migraine sufferer much easier,” Scott Yacovino, senior brand manager for Excedrin and the U.S. pain business at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Health, said. “Our mission is to provide head pain relief, and we do that with our medications, but technology now allows us show the emotional impact that migraines have as well, so it’s a pretty powerful one-two punch.”

The campaign includes two 15-second TV ads, digital advertising with a large social component, long-form online videos and in-store shopper marketing.

To help inform the campaign, GSK conducted research to find out more about migraine sufferers’ work experiences. A survey found that an overwhelming majority (63%) of migraine sufferers say they pretend they’re okay and just tough it out when a migraine attacks at work. Making those attacks more difficult, however, is the statistic that about half of migraine sufferers say they’ve had to debunk migraine myths at work; for example, in cases when co-workers have accused them of being hungover instead of having a debilitating headache. It’s no surprise, then, that 41% of migraine sufferers say their co-workers sometimes don’t take migraines seriously, with another 35% saying they've had co-workers think they faked migraines.

“The survey allowed us to quantify and really get the scope of the emotion across the migraine suffering population,” Yacovino said, adding that he and his team have also learned lessons from last year’s campaign and the feedback from viewers.

"When you really take the time to understand each individual sufferer’s impact, I know it’s opened my eyes," he said. "What we’ve learned was what are the key elements a sufferer needs to communicate to a non-sufferer to help them understand.”