Know Your A1C Campaign
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Holmes Report

Know Your A1C Campaign

The GlaxoSmithKline/Cohn & Wolfe team developed a unique program combining marketing, advertising and public relations to educate people with type 2 diabetes about the importance of taking regular Hemoglobin A1C (or “A1C” for short) tests to monitor long-

Paul Holmes

The GlaxoSmithKline/Cohn & Wolfe team developed a unique program combining marketing, advertising and public relations to educate people with type 2 diabetes about the importance of taking regular Hemoglobin A1C (or “A1C” for short) tests to monitor long-term diabetes control.  The campaign also informed people with type 2 diabetes about the value of GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia (rosiglitazone maleate), an oral diabetes medication that targets insulin resistance, an underlying cause of the disease.
The campaign featured a national media launch as well as a multi-market tour that provided people with type 2 diabetes the opportunity to receive free A1C testing, branded and unbranded educational materials and opportunities to speak with certified diabetes educators (CDEs).  In this way, the campaign was able to set up a problem (unmanaged A1C levels) and provide a potential solution (Avandia).


People with type 2 diabetes are often in denial about their disease since it does not seem life threatening and they feel “healthy” in the short-term.  However, type 2 diabetes, a disease in which the body does not respond properly to the insulin it already produces (insulin resistance), can lead to devastating complications such as heart, kidney, and nerve disease, blindness and amputation. Research demonstrates that good diabetes management (as indicated by the A1C test) can prevent or delay the onset of these devastating complications. 

Indeed, A1C is the best indicator of long-term diabetes control, providing patients with a “big picture” view to help determine if the success of their diabetes management plan.  A1C levels are measured through a simple blood test that indicates glucose levels over a three-month period.  While a crucial part of long-term diabetes management, many people with the disease do not know about the test, or what their target A1C level should be. 

Importantly, uncontrolled A1C levels are one of the key reasons that physicians switch or add on therapies to a patient’s diabetes regimen.  We therefore ensured that the campaign also included information on Avandia, for those patients who were unmanaged and who may need an insulin sensitizer to bring the blood sugar levels in control.


The American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) conducted a survey of type 2 diabetes patients to assess their understanding about the disease.  The survey found that 75 percent of people with type 2 diabetes did not know their current A1C levels, and that 77 percent did not know what the level should be.  It also showed that people with type 2 diabetes who understand insulin resistance were more likely to have good A1C levels.  Yet, two-thirds of patients did not understand, nor have ever heard of, insulin resistance.  Research also demonstrated that physicians use the A1C test as a key indicator for initiating a change in therapy.


Based on this research, Cohn & Wolfe created a national campaign with grassroots legs designed to raise awareness among people with type 2 diabetes about the importance of monitoring A1C levels and targeting insulin resistance for long-term diabetes control.  In order to achieve this objective, our strategy was to provide free education and A1C testing in local markets for diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients to help them understand the importance of tight blood sugar control and medications, such as Avandia, that directly target insulin resistance.


We created a national campaign called “Know Your A1C” by partnering with Prevention Magazine as a sponsor of its Healthy Lifestyle Tour.  The Tour traveled across the country to food/state fairs providing consumers with health information/screenings. 

As a sponsor of this Tour, we provided consumers with free A1C testing and branded information about managing their disease, targeting key Tour markets (Cincinnati, St. Louis, Chicago, Sacramento, San Jose, Albuquerque, Baton Rouge and Philadelphia). We selected these markets based on a number of factors including: high incidence of type 2 diabetes, large ethnic populations (who are at higher risk for the disease); and high potential consumer attendance at large-scale events.  We also partnered with the AADE to provide certified diabetes educators in each market to counsel diabetes patients about their A1C results and to answer questions about diabetes management.

Public Relations:
· When launching the campaign nationally, we conducted a national and trade pitch effort and distributed our press materials including a B-roll video package and audio news release (ANR).  We then took the Tour to local markets, conducting aggressive outreach using tailored, localized materials (e.g., press release, media alert).
· To entice media to report on the “Know Your A1C” campaign, we offered interviews with local spokespersons (including physicians and diabetes educators) and created and distributed the following materials:
· Press kit containing a press release, fact sheets on insulin resistance and A1C, and Avandia product information
· Localized press kits including a press release and media alert
· Public service announcement (PSA) script, distributed in each local market
· B-roll package featuring footage of A1C testing and interviews with an endocrinologist, the AADE president and a type 2 diabetes patient
· Audio news release (ANR) featuring comments from the AADE president

· As part of the Healthy Lifestyle Tour sponsorship, the Avandia logo was prominently displayed in all Tour signage including on the truck which traveled to more than 20 markets across the country including retail locations and local events; advertisements in Prevention Magazine; in-store promotions at each retail location the Tour visited; as well as branded tents to serve as counseling and information stations.

· We also partnered with local Avandia sales representatives to promote the events to physicians in their markets.  We provided them with posters advertising the event to hang in physicians’ offices in order to drive traffic to the events.  Moreover, we liaised with local physicians or certified diabetes educators in each market to serve as media spokespersons.
· Patients and their families attending the events received the following materials in English and in Spanish:
o A1C fact sheet
o Avandia fulfillment kit containing detailed information about managing type 2 diabetes, free offers as well as an invitation to join Avandia’s patient support group
o A1C magnet which patients could take to their physicians to report their A1C results, and also to remind them to ask for a test at least twice a year
o A cookbook featuring healthy recipes from various celebrity chefs and information on Avandia


We met our objective by achieving the following results:
· Received a total of 33 million media impressions with 850 stories in over 200 markets
· Secured national and trade coverage including a cover story in Diabetes Interview and radio placements on CBS and USA national radio networks
· Generated coverage in the top 100 markets with our ANR
· Received local print and/or broadcast coverage in all eight markets we visited
· Tested more than 375 people with diabetes and reached many more with branded Avandia messages through give-aways, patient kits and counseling sessions with certified diabetes educators

The program’s success and continuous positive feedback from the diabetes community prompted Cohn & Wolfe and GlaxoSmithKline to include grassroots campaigns featuring testing of people with type 2 diabetes in programs for 2002. 

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