Get out the tissues: Sanofi AR campaign uses snotty sneezes to pitch Allegra in Brazil

Teads pavilion at Cannes Lions Health 2019
Sanofi tapped Teads to develop an augmented reality campaign for its Allegra OTC launch in Brazil. (Cannes Lions)

CANNES, FRANCE—In the U.S., when seasonal sneezes come on, there’s no mystery about what to do next—or whether to do it. Go to the drugstore for allergy medication.

But what if that decision weren’t automatic?

For Sanofi, as it launched its drug Allegra over the counter in Brazil, the answer was a mobile, augmented reality (AR) media campaign that could outfit users with red noses and watery eyes, similar to a Snapchat filter. It even animated sneezes, complete with droplets on the phone screen.

The idea was to point out allergy symptoms in a way that would both appeal to young people and educate consumers about getting treatment without a prescription.

“The brand is highly effective, but there was not a lot of awareness,”  said Guido Merighi Buitoni, global head of digital business transformation at the French drugmaker. “We needed to bring to life the experience of the symptoms, especially for younger consumers—to make them almost feel the pain that they feel when they have this.”

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“The traditional pharma approach of a problem-solution, 30-second ad would not work here at all,” he added.

So the French drugmaker tapped the creative team at Teads, which lit upon the AR approach. “Obviously AR puts the consumer at the symptom,” said Bertrand Cocallemen, global creative director at Teads, during the joint case study here Tuesday.  

And the approach appeared to work. The AR pieces attracted 5.8 million unique visits, and users engaged for an average of 38 seconds—and Teads and Sanofi had set 25 seconds as their benchmark for engagement success. 

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Sanofi resisted using media benchmarks to measure the campaign, though, because AR was a new format for the company and it had no historic baseline for comparison. Instead, it looked at brand awareness, and the results showed “brand impact very strong, and in fact in line with our highest expectation,” Buitoni said.

Allegra was once one of Sanofi’s blockbuster prescription drugs, but generics to other allergy brands—and then generic Allegra itself—took a big bite out of sales. But switching the brand to OTC status has helped keep Allegra revenue coming. In 2018, prescription Allegra sales dropped by 18% to $124 million, while consumer sales amounted to $396 million, up slightly at constant exchange rates.

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Allegra is sold in 80 countries, according to Sanofi’s 2018 annual report, and some countries besides Brazil might see similar AR work promoting the brand, provided the market conditions—like mobile phone penetration—are right. “The creative execution was very robust,” Buitoni said. “We think we could potentially scale it.”

Teads is also working on a new pitch for the Allegra brand: a game dubbed "The Great Relief" in which players would blow into the phone's microphone to advance an athlete through barriers made of allergens. "Breath is at the heart of allergy," Cocallemen said. "The idea would be to show Allegra is their best partner to solve breathing issues."