To leverage National Alzheimer’s Disease Month and National Family Caregivers Month (November), Feinstein Kean Healthcare embarked on a major consumer outreach initiative on behalf of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. This innovative campaign, designed to differentiate Novartis and its new treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, brought the company together with television personality Linda Dano (who herself cared for a parent with Alzheimer’s disease) and the National Family Caregivers Association (NFCA). Through the program, Alzheimer’s disease caregivers are invited to receive a free Caregiver Survival Kit containing information about Alzheimer’s disease treatments such as Novartis’ Exelon (rivastigmine tartrate) and tools to empower caregivers. Designed to generate national media coverage in November that would in turn generate requests for Caregiver Survival Kits, the campaign exceeded expectations and, two months later, continues to generate top-tier media placements and resulting consumer requests.
In April, 2000 Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation received FDA marketing clearance for Exelon, the third treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. In introducing Exelon, the company confronted a strong market leader branded with a highly visible direct-to-consumer advertising campaign. Moreover, with new treatments on the horizon the company faced significant challenges in differentiating its product and delivering key messages to its most important audiences. Post-approval Novartis met considerable obstacles in generating consumer awareness about Exelon 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.
PR PROGRAM OBJECTIVES
Novartis recognized that in order to affect Alzheimer’s disease treatment decisions, it needed to communicate with caregivers. Moreover, market research demonstrated that the majority of mild Alzheimer’s patients remain undiagnosed. Therefore, to reach sales goals, marketing had to increase Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis and treatment. From a corporate perspective, the marketing team also needed to generate visibility for the product and the company’s commitment to Alzheimer’s disease during National Alzheimer’s Disease Month (November). To support Novartis’ objectives, the public relations campaign was designed to:
- Reach caregivers/potential caregivers with key messages about the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.
- 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.
Research included three key areas:
Importance of caregivers as a primary audience:
Findings: Market research demonstrated that, as ranked by treating physicians, 90.5 percent of Alzheimer’s disease caregivers have a “great deal” of influence on seeking treatment and 81 percent have a “great deal” of influence on persistency of treatment.
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: NFCA emerged as the most strategic partner based on the organization’s mission, consumer materials/resources and national base.
Leverage celebrity cachet and National Alzheimer’s Disease Month to increase awareness of Novartis and Exelon through media coverage.
Partner with key 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.
To introduce the company and product, FKH worked with Linda Dano and the NFCA to produce comprehensive educational materials for caregivers. The materials provided both disease awareness, corporate and product messages.
On November 1, 2000 Feinstein Kean Healthcare launched a national media campaign designed to stimulate widespread press coverage delivering the campaign messages and publicizing the kit. Recognizing that November would be an extremely competitive news month (National Alzheimer’s Disease Month, National Family Caregivers Month and the presidential election), embargoed outreach to key reporters began in mid-October. Outreach included extensive outreach to top-tier national media outlets, video news release, satellite media tour and a radio media tour.
The Caregiver Survival Kit campaign, originally intended to conclude at the end of November, is still going strong. Sam Rini, Associate Director, Neuroscience Business Unit, Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation, summarized the campaign in a report to staff:
“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.”
To date, the campaign has resulted in a total of more than 27,010,502 media impressions. Top-tier national placements include: USA Today, USA Today.com, STAR magazine, ABC television’s “The View,” “The Rosie O’Donnel Show” and “Lifetime Live.” Media placements have in turn led to 35,323 requests for Caregiver Survival Kits, thereby delivering key information about Alzheimer’s disease and Exelon directly to caregivers/potential caregivers. Based on these results, Novartis has expanded the program into 2001.