Giving Women What They Want: The Introduction of Lunnelle
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Giving Women What They Want: The Introduction of Lunnelle

Manning Selvage & Lee started working with Pharmacia in January of 1999 to help seed the market for the introduction of LUNELLE Monthly Contraceptive, the first contraceptive taken once a month.

Paul Holmes


Manning Selvage & Lee started working with Pharmacia in January of 1999 to help seed the market for the introduction of LUNELLE Monthly Contraceptive, the first contraceptive taken once a month.  Faced with a market long dominated and comfortable with the “pill,” Manning spent 18 months strategically furthering the message that American women want and need new birth control, including a monthly birth control.  Through aggressive media and third-party outreach, Manning charted the path to a highly successful FDA approval of LUNELLE on Oct. 5, 2000, reaching an audience of more than 446 million


At a time when there are more birth control options available to U.S. women than ever before, half of all pregnancies are still unintended.  Ten to 15 percent of sexually active women still don’t use birth control during sexual intercourse and 40 percent of women who do use a birth control method, do so inconsistently. Why aren’t women using birth control and when they do, why don’t they use it correctly?  What do women truly want from birth control today?

In early 1999, Pharmacia Corporation was preparing to introduce a new birth control option similar to the pill.  In a market dominated by and comfortable with “the pill,” Pharmacia needed to shake up the contraceptive status quo to create demand for a new, monthly injectable birth control option. The company had introduced DEPO-PROVERA Contraceptive Injection eight years ago, and needed to clearly differentiate the two injectables so that DEPO-PROVERA market share would not erode upon the introduction of LUNELLE Monthly Contraceptive Injection. With the new introduction pending, Pharmacia had to alter health care providers’ natural tendency to immediately prescribe the pill. We needed to create a “buzz” around LUNELLE, positioning this injectable as an improved alternative to the pill because of its one-a-month dosing.


To build a case for the need for a monthly birth control, Manning conducted the following research:

Defined the LUNELLE woman: Early research by Manning, later confirmed by market research by Pharmacia, indicated that certain women would be most likely to try LUNELLE first. Based on one-on-one interviews with women and a review of secondary research, a profile showed: the LUNELLE woman as between the ages of 25-35, a “woman on the go” and a proactive health care seeker. She would welcome the opportunity to think about birth control less, and be eager to find birth control that better fits her hectic lifestyle. An avid reader, she relies on media and health care providers for information about health, but also on her family and friends. If we could convince her to try LUNELLE, she would be likely to spread the word to her friends and influence them to switch to a new, more convenient birth control. Using MRI data, we identified which media channels to best reach this woman: women’s magazines, newspapers and broadcast news outlets rated high.

Identified what she wants: To supplement the vast amount of research on birth control useManning conducted two What Women Want consumer surveys. In 1999, we conducted the first-ever-international survey on women’s birth control needs and wants in five countries, including the U.S. In 2000, we fielded a second survey to obtain more detailed information on what American women want.  The surveys revealed that women want monthly birth control. Women are busier than ever, and struggle daily to balance health, family and work. Survey results showed universal dissatisfaction with the pill, creating an important opening for LUNELLE. The findings showed the need for convenient new birth control that accommodates women’s busy lifestyles, such as LUNELLE.  In addition to often forgetting to take the pill, the survey also found that many women are complacent about their contraceptive choices and do not ask their health care providers about new options. We needed to motivate them to ask their providers to try LUNELLE.

Defined influences: An analysis of the audience revealed that in addition to the media, third-party groups, such as Planned Parenthood, American College of OB/GYNs, Alan Gutacher Institute and others, influence a woman’s contraceptive choice. In order for LUNELLE to be accepted by physicians and consumers, we needed the support of these trusted organizations. Furthermore, these organizations are key resources to the media and would be major influencers in disseminating LUNELLE information to the media, physicians and consumers. 

Measured LUNELLE awareness: In an effort to measure impact of our media efforts from May 1999 to June 2000, and establish a baseline of LUNELLE awareness levels before approval, we conducted a poll to measure consumer awareness levels for LUNELLE.



  • Generate LUNELLE word-of-mouth through media coverage and third party alliances
  • Differentiate LUNELLE from the only other injectable contraceptive, DEPO-PROVERA


Motivate women to ask for LUNELLE by showing that LUNELLE is what today’s woman wants


LUNELLE U.S. Clinical Data Presentation: To jumpstart awareness of LUNELLE, Manning worked with Pharmacia to leverage the first and only presentation of U.S. clinical trial data at the May 1999 annual meeting of the American College of OB/GYNs (ACOG).  Traditionally a poorly attended medical meeting by media, we pre-pitched the results of the clinical trial showing that LUNELLE was more effective in preventing pregnancy than the pill. By arranging media interviews for local market investigators, we secured media coverage in key local markets. We leveraged one of those placements, a Washington TV segment, into a national news feed, leading to widespread coverage of LUNELLE in USA Today, Good Morning America, FOX News, NBC news channel, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Reuters, Dow Jones, Associated Press, and Reuter’s HealthLUNELLE became the big piece of news coming out of the ACOG meeting, even during one of the busiest medical meeting weeks of the year. Additionally, the release of the clinical trial data also set the stage for several rounds of desk-side briefings with women’s books, resulting in coverage in Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, Woman’s Day, Mirabella, Child, Family Circle, Mademoiselle, and Bridal Guide.

Thought-leader and patient support: Manning identified and recruited major reproductive health thought-leaders to help show the need for LUNELLE acceptance. These spokespeople, sought after by media in their own right, became critical links in our efforts to keep LUNELLE visible in the consumer and trade press during the pre-approval period. They were also instrumental in our efforts to educate the media about the differences between DEPO-PROVERA (a progestin-only injectable taken only four times a year) and LUNELLE (a combined hormonal injectable taken 13 times a year).  In addition we recruited a number of clinical trial participants who exemplified the “LUNELLE woman” to show the need that busy woman have for a new, more convenient birth control method.

What Women Want From Their Birth Control: The Experts Speak: To shed new light on how to tackle the challenges of effectively meeting women’s birth control wants and needs, Manning assembled an interdisciplinary panel of women’s health experts at the May 2000 ACOG annual meeting. The panel included OB/GYNs, pharmacists, nurses, LUNELLE users, Shari Roan from the Los Angles Times, and representatives from the American Medical Women’s Association, Planned Parenthood and Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health. To improve birth control access, education and options, the panel recommended increased access to contraceptive information and birth control methods, enhanced education of health care professionals and women, and the availability of more convenient birth control options that are not tied to daily dosing or sexual intercourse. In addition to gaining access to several new and articulate spokespeople and building further enthusiasm for this new bitch control option, the event generated information that could be shared with media during the pivotal time right before approval.

Formed Third-Party Alliances: Manning also formed close alliances with key third party organizations responsible for disseminating contraceptive information to their members as well as the public. We conducted briefings on the need for monthly birth control with pivotal organizations such as ACOG, Alan Gutacher Institute (AGI), American Nurses Association, American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA), Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH), and Association of Reproductive Health Professionals to name a few.  In addition to providing information on LUNELLE, we built a network of LUNELLE supporters looking for opportunities to talk about the need for more contraceptive choices. Working with NPWH, we developed a module for nurse practitioners to discuss, prescribe and use LUNELLE  that will now be customized for use for nurses and physician assistants. In addition, AMWA and AGI issued statements endorsing the approval of LUNELLE.

LUNELLE Approval: On Thursday, Oct. 5, 2000, Pharmacia received FDA approval for LUNELLE. Early on Thursday, we contacted key reporters to alert them to the possible approval. Although we received approval after 5:00 PM, we secured stories on all the major wires that night, setting the stage for widespread news coverage on morning TV and radio news shows as well as in newspapers. The story was broadcast on the NBC, ABC and FOX newsfeeds to stations across the country, as well as on commercial satellite feeds early Friday morning. We released on the PRNewswire supporting statements from AMWA and NPWH applauding the availability of a new birth control option. Within only 24 hours, we reached an audience of more than 91 million and by week’s end 420 million. Media coverage included repeated stories on all major wires: Reuters, Associated Press, Dow Jones, and Bloomberg; broadcast coverage on the major morning news shows, including NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, NBC’s Early Today, ABC World News This Morning, and CNN Headline News.  Newspaper coverage included USA Today, Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Newark Star Ledger and coverage in every major market. To date, we have collected more than 700 air checks and more than 500 newspaper clips.


Objective 1: Generate LUNELLE word-of-mouth through media coverage and third party alliances. 

Reached an audience of more than 446 million with LUNELLE messages since May 1999. The majority of coverage has appeared in newspapers and magazines reach the LUNELLE woman. 

Most of the coverage garnered reflected key LUNELLE messages:

More than 90 percent of the coverage correctly positioned LUNELLE as an alternative to the pill, citing its high effectiveness

More than 80 percent of the coverage emphasized the convenience of LUNELLE

Consumer awareness surveys show high LUNELLE awareness among women 18-44, measured at 17 percent in November 2000.  In addition, survey findings show that traditional PR channels, such as TV, newspapers and magazines, as well as word of mouth (family and friends) drove 80 percent of this awareness.

Pharmacia conducted physician awareness market research in November 1999 and November 2000.  As a result of the massive coverage, awareness of LUNELLE jumped from 35 percent in November 1999 to 61 percent in November 2000.  Primary Care Physicians also showed a significant increase (from 9 percent to 40 percent). 

Objective 2: Differentiate LUNELLE from the only other injectable contraceptive, DEPO-PROVERA: 

More than 50 percent of the media coverage on LUNELLE approval correctly identified the differences between LUNELLE and DEPO-PROVERA. 

DEPO-PROVERA market share has continued to grow during the first three months of LUNELLE’s introduction.

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