In April 2000, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation received FDA marketing clearance for Exelon (rivastigmine tartrate), the third treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Exelon entered the market against an established market leader supported by a national DTC advertising campaign.
Public relations for this competing product focused on scientific publicity and local market outreach surrounding individual success stories, but did not include a national consumer based public relations platform targeting caregivers specifically. With no DTC advertising budget and new treatments on the horizon, Novartis faced significant challenges in differentiating its product and delivering messages to its most important audiences. FDA approval of Exelon generated a significant amount of media coverage, but with limited data being released following approval, we needed to create a distinct new vehicle to deliver information about Exelon.
With that in mind, FKH created a media platform by designing a wide-scale public relations campaign targeting Alzheimer’s disease caregivers and potential caregivers to be launched six months post approval (in November during National Alzheimer’s Disease Month)..
The public relations campaign was designed to:
· Reach caregivers/potential caregivers with information about the importance of early diagnosis and treatments
· such as Exelon.
· Keep Exelon messages top-of-mind for key audiences and continue to provide an attractive news angle for
· reporters to increase consumer awareness.
· Facilitate positive introduction of Novartis and Exelon to caregivers.
· Deliver targeted information to 10,000 caregivers/potential caregivers.
· Increase product awareness via media impressions and through increased traffic to Novartis’ Alzheimer’s disease web site (http://www.AlzheimersDisease.com).
There were considerable challenges to generating consumer awareness about the medication through the news media, including:
· Limited amount of new data slated to be released post-approval.
· Stringent regulatory environment that limited strong differentiation from the competition.
· Media saturated with Alzheimer’s disease information; reporters looking to cover cutting edge science/potential cure.
· Competing products on the horizon; short-lived window for being the newest treatment.
Before outlining specific objectives and developing a strategic approach, market research was initiated in five targeted areas:
Importance of caregivers as a primary audience:
Findings: As ranked by treating physicians, 90.5%of Alzheimer’s disease caregivers have a “great deal” of influence on seeking treatment and 81%have a “great deal” of influence on persistency of treatment.
Importance of potential caregivers:
Findings: The majority of mild Alzheimer’s patients remain undiagnosed.
Needs within the caregiver community:
Findings: Based on an audit of Alzheimer’s Association chapters across the country, easily accessible caregiver resources consistently emerged as an unmet need.
Appropriate third-party partner to meet program objectives:
Findings: The National Family Caregiver’s Association (NFCA) emerged as the most strategic partner based on the organization’s consumer materials/resources, national roots and mission to improve the overall quality of life of America’s caregivers.
Volume of response generated by celebrity-driven media campaign(s) targeting similar demographic:
Findings: Results from similar campaigns demonstrated a positive track record for motivating older Americans to reach out for health information. (A similar celebrity-driven media campaign with a health message and call to action geared at older Americans generated 10,000 calls to a toll-free number.)
FKH worked closely with Novartis and NFCA to develop a comprehensive new resource available free to caregivers/potential caregivers of Alzheimer’s disease patients called the Caregiver Survival Kit. The kit was designed to provide information and support to caregivers and to communicate how treatments such as Exelon can help Alzheimer’s disease patients. In addition, we developed a comprehensive media outreach strategy and tailored media materials designed to generate widespread coverage about the kit.
Linda Dano was identified as potential celebrity spokesperson for the campaign based on her appeal to our target audience, her credibility and her personal connection to this disease (she herself cared for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease). We also worked closely with various physicians who could discuss the importance of caregiver support and the importance of the Caregiver Survival Kit campaign with the media.
To facilitate distribution of the kit, FKH worked closely with a fulfillment house to launch a toll-free number and develop a script for use by trained live operators. A Web site order form was created and posted on the NFCA Web site. The order form was linked to Novartis’ www.AlzheimersDisease.com. Mechanisms were set up via the fulfillment house to track the number of requests generated by both the toll-free number and Web site on a regular basis.
Based on research findings, FKH outlined the following strategic approach:
· Leverage celebrity cachet and National Alzheimer’s Disease Month to increase awareness of Novartis and Exelon through media coverage.
· Partner with third-party group (NFCA) to enhance credibility and reach.
· Develop a direct-to-consumer platform distinct from competitive activities to deliver information about Alzheimer’s disease and Exelon to caregivers/potential caregivers.
Because of fierce competition during November, FKH began embargoed outreach to key print reporters and national morning talk show producers in mid-October. As the toll-free number was not live until November 1, FKH could not launch the full-scale campaign or broadcast activities in advance. Timing surrounding the availability of the toll-free number posed two challenges. First, it would be extremely difficult to generate local news coverage in early November due to election coverage. Second, the timing had to allow for a launch early in November so not to be blunted by competitors also looking to leverage National Alzheimer’s Disease Month. Therefore, wide-scale media outreach was launched on November 1, 2000 with the SMT and VNR scheduled for November 9, two days after the presidential election was supposed to be over.
Despite unanticipated election coverage competition throughout November, the program generated widespread media coverage during the month and beyond. Intended to generate placements in November that would in turn lead to requests for Caregiver Survival Kits, the campaign has exceeded expectations.
51,836 Caregiver Survival Kits distributed to date – exceeded initial objective of distributing 10,000 kits and met goal of delivering Exelon and early diagnosis information to key audience.
Successfully met objective of creating an attractive news angle during Alzheimer’s Awareness Month
29,851,600 media impressions including top-tier national placements such as USA Today, USA Today.com, STAR magazine, ABC television’s “The View,” “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and “Lifetime Live” branding Novartis with Alzheimer’s disease and caregiver support.
Data show that user sessions to AlzheimersDisease.com (Novartis’ Web site for Alzheimer’s disease caregivers) have tripled since the campaign’s launch, thereby meeting the objective to increase traffic to Novartis’ Alzheimer’s disease Web site.
Approximately 600 personal emails/letters received from caregivers thanking Linda Dano and Novartis for the Caregiver Survival Kit, which reinforces our objective of branding Novartis as a resource for caregivers.
Sam Rini, Associate Director, Neuroscience Business Unit, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, summarized 2000 campaign results in a report to staff (*reflects kits ordered as of January 2, 2001 when email was sent): “With our most recent AD awareness activities (specifically Linda Dano’s appearance on the Rosie O’Donnell show), we had an additional 11,579 Caregiver Survival Kits requested over the holidays. This brings our total requests to date up to *26,223! What a great success! As you might recall, our original target goal was to distribute approximately 10,000 kits to caregivers nationwide.”