Zoetis’ Sileo dog-calming drug explodes on social media. Any lessons for pharma?

Dog lovers, social media and fireworks turned out to be the perfect storm for a canine prescription drug that went viral this past Fourth of July. Zoetis’ Sileo to treat noise-averse dogs without sedating them debuted in May, but the animal drug company knew the fireworks holiday would bring out the scaredy-dogs.

In fact, Zoetis social media research around the previous Fourth holiday confirmed that the day is a stressful one for the one-third of dogs in the U.S. that suffer from noise aversion, as well as their owners. And while it’s true that occasional social media hits just “happen,” there is more likely careful and purposeful planning behind the effort. That was the case with Sileo.

“It started with our desire to raise awareness around canine noise aversion and to guide the conversation around veterinarians and pet owners,” Alexandra McMenamy, marketing director at Zoetis for biologicals and pain as well as anesthesia and sedation, told FiercePharmaMarketing.

Zoetis first sent emails and letters to veterinarians that pointed to its professional Sileo website, where DVMs could find a cache of educational content and marketing resources such as email, Facebook posts and tweets to use. The field sales force then followed up with vets personally after the drug launched, with a focus on product training. Meanwhile, the Zoetis corporate communications team not only pitched media outlets, but also lined up experts and dog owners who had experiences and stories to tell about the drug when media inquired.  


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The combination of using social media--where dog owners were already sharing stories about their noise-anxious dogs; preparing veterinarian customers and internal communications pros to respond quickly; and timing the campaign around the Fourth of July worked to fire up social media buzz. A STAT article reported at least 40 social media posts from vets and pet clinics promoting the drug around this year’s Fourth of July.


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At heart, the Sileo campaign is a disease awareness effort--and one from which human pharma companies might take a page. Like some human conditions, dogs’ noise problems may not warrant a full doctor visit, even though the problem affects quality of life. Also as with human ailments, there may be resistance to trying a drug treatment.

“There is an awareness about noise anxiety, but it’s rarely the primary purpose for a veterinary visit. Noise aversion oftentimes is episodic in nature, like thunderstorms or fireworks, so it’s usually not top of mind for pet owners," McMenamy said. Plus, before pet owners "go down a road of trying a prescription medication, they’ll often try other avenues. They might try Benadryl or ThunderShirts or other types of homeopathic medications or treat with love and affection."

Included along with the unbranded social media effort were paid branded media such as digital and trade advertising, McMenamy said. More work is already being planned for upcoming events, including Halloween and New Year’s Eve.

Zoetis was once a division of Pfizer, but it was spun off into an independent company in 2013.

- read STAT's article

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