Novartis tweaks Pinterest to create malaria-fighting graphic novel

An image from Novartis' "Mosquito Gauntlet" board, which acts as a graphic novel--Courtesy of Novartis

Novartis ($NVS) is already one of the most active drugmakers in the digital realm, with an assortment of smartphone apps and thousands of followers on its Twitter handles. And now, Novartis is using an oft-overlooked social network in the pharma world--Pinterest--for one of its campaigns.

And it's not the usual Pinterest board, either. Novartis is using the image-oriented site to set up malaria-fighting stories in graphic-novel form.

The Swiss drugmaker designed three boards on Pinterest, including "Mosquito Gauntlet" which includes 51 pins that create an "illustrated odyssey of malaria-carrying mosquitoes, through a battery of ruthless technology," a tagline says at the top of the board. Using chapter headings such as "The Smack-Down" and "The Puddle of Doom" alongside colorful graphics, the board tells the story of recent efforts to combat malaria and also mentions Novartis' malaria pipeline at the end.

"The board was designed to 'hack' the way Pinterest traditionally works to create a graphic novel where the pins work collectively to tell the story," Novartis spokeswoman Liz Power told FiercePharmaMarketing in an email.

Novartis' "Mosquito Mayhem" board encourages viewers to share a story about fighting malaria.--Courtesy of Novartis

"Mosquito Mayhem" takes a different tack, asking viewers to use the company's pins to "build your own mosquito misadventure," the company says in a pin. Viewers first choose from a lineup of different anthropomorphized mosquito characters, including "Lilith" who was hatched in a puddle in Cambodia and "feels no remorse for her predilection for pregnant women," and "Fabiana," a "sultry sucker (who) enjoys sweaty samba dancers and the annual skin-fest that is Carnival."

Then, the person pins a "WMD," or "weapon of mosquito destruction," and ends by pinning a mosquito corpse. A pin with the tagline, "Share the Gore. Spread the Word," encourages individuals to tell people about the campaign and includes the hashtag, "#MosquitoMayhem," to track updates via social media.

A third board, "M-Force Trading Cards" features illustrated trading cards with a "task force" of malaria-fighting superheroes. For example, the "Agent Sparrow" card includes a picture of a bird and talks about delivering malaria treatment to hard-to-reach areas. And "Magnus - The Cardboard Crusader" talks up a new cardboard microscope that can pinpoint the disease.

"The thought behind them is that technology and innovation is one of our best allies in the fight against malaria," Power said. "Together they provide a holistic view of innovation in the malaria space, but they also each stand alone as highly visual content pieces."

Novartis launched the boards in November and December 2014, promoting the campaign through its corporate Twitter and Facebook channels. At least so far, the company is chalking up some promising results. All the boards have more than 800 Pinterest followers. And the boards/pins link back to the company's malaria website or related site, working as "traffic drivers to existing resources or additional information," Power said.

- here's a link to Novartis' Pinterest boards

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