Bow Ouch: Giving Arthritic Dogs a Voice
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Holmes Report
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Bow Ouch: Giving Arthritic Dogs a Voice

Pfizer Animal Health successfully introduced Rimadyl pain medication for treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) in dogs several years ago with great success. However, many dogs suffering with OA remain undiagnosed and untreated.

Paul Holmes

Pfizer Animal Health successfully introduced Rimadyl pain medication for treatment of osteoarthritis (OA) in dogs several years ago with great success. However, many dogs suffering with OA—the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs—remain undiagnosed and untreated.
 
The reason these dogs continue to suffer from this debilitating disease is often a lack of pet owner knowledge about the signs of OA.
 
Colle+McVoy recommended a high-impact media relations campaign to educate pet owners about canine arthritis pain.  Even television star Doris Roberts pitched in to help spread the word.
 
THE CHALLENGES
 
Increased competition.  No “new” news.  Flat sales and falling market share.
 
That was the challenge for Pfizer Animal Health’s canine arthritis drug – Rimadyl.
 
Introduced in 1997, Rimadyl was a major breakthrough in canine arthritis medication and quickly captured dominant market share.  In recent years, competitive prescription drugs and alternative treatments have begun to erode that share.
 
Pfizer turned to its agency of record, Colle+McVoy, to engage an aggressive marketing campaign to reinvigorate sales and refresh the brand.
 
RESEARCH
 
Four pet owner focus groups, a national survey of senior dog owners and existing marketing information confirmed that both dog owners and veterinarians need more education to recognize canine arthritis as a painful disease.  Key findings include:
  • One in five dogs suffer from canine arthritis (the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs).  Fifty-five percent go untreated, with signs of arthritis often overlooked as “old age.”
  • Eighty-eight percent of dog owners agreed dogs can experience the same medical problems and pain as people.
  • Nine out of 10 pet owners rely on their veterinarian’s advice for treatments.
 
Based on these findings, C+M engaged in a year-long campaign designed to:
  • Communicate that pets feel pain, just like people
  • Educate pet owners on the four signs of canine arthritis pain The campaign goals:
  • Increase awareness of canine arthritis and Rimadyl and drive pet owners to veterinary clinics.
  • Regain market share by increasing canine arthritis prescriptions at veterinary clinics.
 
STRATEGIES & EXECUTION
 
Strategy 1:  Create new educational materials for veterinarians to increase the frequency of canine arthritis diagnoses.
 
Proactive Pain Management CD-Rom:  Veterinarians received an interactive primer course on the latest advances in pain management (which includes canine arthritis) and analgesic treatment options for both acute and chronic pain.
 
“Take 5” CD-Rom and  Video:  Educational program gave veterinarians an easy-to-follow, visual demonstration of a five-minute canine arthritis exam.
 
In-clinic materials:  Point-of-purchase materials help veterinarians deliver messages about canine arthritis symptoms.  Posters, tabletop signs and danglers highlighted the signs of canine arthritis and promoted special months.
 
Influencer materials/events:  Regular communications through “Compassionate Care” newsletter, technical bulletins and presence at major veterinary conferences reinforced Rimadyl as the proven treatment for canine arthritis.
 
Strategy 2:  Implement a national consumer media relations program.
 
Doris Roberts’ “Drive Against Pain”:  Doris Roberts (the Emmy-award winning actress from “Everybody Loves Raymond”) and her family dog, Max, traveled more than 1,000 miles in a 32-foot customized RV.  Both suffer from arthritis pain. Max takes Rimadyl. 
 
Along the four-city, weeklong “Drive”, Doris and Max visited local shelter clinics to donate Rimadyl.
 
In becoming the “voice” for dogs in pain, Doris’ interviews, including an appearance on “Good Morning America,” highlighted the signs of canine arthritis pain, the prevalence of canine arthritis and her empathy as an arthritis sufferer for dogs in pain.
 
“Please Help Us” Media Kit:  Breakthrough media kit and companion VNR publicized the unique findings of a Yankelovich Partners dog owner survey exploring the perceptions of pet’s health.  The kit delivered messages from a dog’s point of view and highlighted findings state that a majority of dog owners consider their dogs as children or friends and that they would go to great lengths to ease their dog’s pain. 
 
Veterinary spokesperson:  A nationally known veterinarian specializing in canine arthritis provided third-party expertise and Rimadyl endorsement with all media relations efforts and special events. 
 
Strategy 3:  Reach pet owners through event marketing.
 
The Pain Management Center is an interactive booth where pet owners can ask veterinarians questions about canine arthritis, collect educational materials and receive a voucher for a free Rimadyl trial.  Activities also included data registration and lead generation. 
 
The Center was present at major pet events across the U.S.
 
Strategy 4:  Partner with the Arthritis Foundation to further build understanding that pets feel arthritis pain like people.
 
Arthritis Awareness Month:  A media kit and video news release were distributed to select media outlets during May, the Foundation’s Arthritis Awareness Month.  The kit included testimonials from dog owners who both suffered from arthritis and had dogs with canine arthritis. 
 
Arthritis Today:  The Foundation’s magazine reaches more than 10 million members and 1,000 medical clinics.  An article in Arthritis Today highlighted issues surrounding canine arthritis with quotes from our veterinary spokesperson.  A second article appeared on the publication’s web page.
 
Fundraising Events:  To further reinforce the link between human and canine arthritis pain, the Pain Management Center also gave Rimadyl a presence at six major Foundation fundraising events.
 
RESULTS
 
By every measure, the campaign was a tremendous success.
 
Objective 1.  Increase awareness of canine arthritis and Rimadyl and drive pet owners to veterinary clinics.
Increased Awareness.  Post-program consumer studies show that one out of every two dog owners now recognize canine arthritis as a painful disease.  An increase in canine arthritis awareness has lead to increased visits to veterinarians.  The number of veterinarians who routinely conduct canine OA exams jumped from 50 percent to 65 percent.
 
Increased Media Coverage.  Media relations activities generated more than 2,000 placements, generating 315 million impressions, a 50 percent increase over the previous year.  Placement highlights included:
  • National broadcast placements included “Good Morning America,” “Joan Rivers Show,” and “Fox & Friends”
  • Wire services including Associated Press, Knight-Ridder (2) and Tribune Media Services
  • National magazines including USA Weekend and The Globe
  • Newspaper placements included 11 of the top 20 dailies
  • Local television placements in eight of the top 10 markets
  • Another estimated 105,000 people visited the Pain Management Center events.
 
Objective 2:  Regain market share by increasing canine arthritis prescriptions at veterinary clinics.  
 
Rimadyl recaptured six percent of the market share in 2001, restoring total share back to a dominant 80+ percent.
Overall, Rimadyl sales reached record levels with an increase of 16 percent, exceeding projections by 111 percent.
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