Excedrin Migraine Simulator

GSK’s Migraine Simulator campaign used augmented and virtual reality to simulate the feeling of a migraine headache.

Pharma: GlaxoSmithKline
Ad agency: DDB Remedy

In a year full of patient stories and testimonial marketing, GlaxoSmithKline’s Migraine Simulator campaign made everyone a patient, using augmented and virtual reality to simulate the feeling of a migraine headache. By downloading an app and using Google cardboard or other VR glasses, users could experience several visual and audio migraine effects.

While the app was enough to make us believers, it was the accompanying ad and online videos that effectively conveyed the emotional struggles of migraine sufferers in a world that doesn’t always believe their stories. In the videos, four real migraine sufferers talked about their experiences alongside their loved ones or co-workers, who then tried the VR glasses.

What came through were the emotions migraine sufferers felt—frustration, sadness, anger, to name three—when those close to them didn’t believe or understand the intensity of their pain or its debilitating effects.

The Excedrin team worked with each of the four to recreate truly personal migraines, using pain and visual sensations specific to their own experiences. As the loved ones and friends felt only some of what the patient feels—the actual pain couldn’t be reproduced—they not only became believers, but empathizers.

Evoking an emotional reaction from an audience in advertising can be as simple as adding adorable babies or cute puppies, but creating real empathy is much more difficult. There is a fine, but distinct and important, line between sympathy and empathy, particularly in healthcare. The Migraine Simulator created empathy for sufferers directly, among their loved ones and friends, but also extended that empathy to the broader viewing audience, changing perceptions and preconceived notions. As the videos explain, “A migraine is not just a bad headache.” Thanks for making us all believers.


Excedrin Migraine Simulator