Social Media: 'Versed on HPV'

Klick Health Versed on HPV for Merck
Merck and Klick Health’s “Versed on HPV” campaign tapped young people’s social media and lifestyle-brand savvy. (Klick)

Category: Social Media
Winning campaign: “Versed on HPV”
Client: Merck & Co.
Agency: Klick Health

Young people may be versed when it comes to music, fashion and pop culture, but Merck & Co. knew they were far from knowledgeable about the risks of human papillomavirus. Almost half of the 14 million new HPV infections in the U.S. are among people ages 15-24.

To change that, Merck and Klick Health’s “Versed on HPV” campaign, which captured top honors in the social media category, tapped young people’s social media and lifestyle-brand savvy. While the campaign is unbranded, Merck makes and markets HPV vaccine Gardasil.

The marketing team aimed to create a campaign that would become synonymous with knowledge about HPV, said Rachel McCready, executive creative director at Klick Health. And they knew that to raise awareness among younger people, the work would have to be fresh, breakthrough, and brief. Each social media post could only carry a fragment of the story they were trying to tell but must work together to create an overarching message.

Klick tapped young adult models and outfitted them in fashion-forward hoodies, hats and T-shirts branded with a modern “Versed” logo, then launched the campaign first on Instagram and Snapchat in April 2018.

A YouTube video series followed with the same group of young models, who revealed their own knowledge gaps and talked to peers on the street to show how little other young people knew about the virus and the potential consequences of infection. The advice tagged at the end of each post and video encouraged people to “Get Versed on HPV.”

“‘Versed on HPV’ is about showing up where young adults already are,” said Nancy Nolan, Merck associate director of marketing communications. “So it was important to be on social media platforms, like Instagram and Snapchat, and in digital channels like YouTube that they’re already using.”

The results speak for themselves. While the campaign is still active, within one year after launch, "Versed" had generated 3.8 million Snapchat swipe-ups, 374 million impressions on Instagram, 276 million YouTube views and 4.9 million unique visitors to the campaign's home website.

"Versed" went beyond social media, too, but in keeping with its street-raised brand aims, the campaign stayed off mainstream media. Instead, it went to college campuses and music festivals and rode the subways. It even showed up in a pop-up stunt at the end of New York Fashion Week.

The biggest lesson learned? According to Nolan, it was this: “Be authentic and ensure you have engaging content on the right platforms to reach young adults.”

Social Media: 'Versed on HPV'