Using the Sizzle of Sex to Showcase Vagifem
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

Using the Sizzle of Sex to Showcase Vagifem

In conjunction with Pharmacia Corporation, Manning, Selvage & Lee (MS&L) developed the ground-breaking Change of (Love) Life campaign to raise awareness among women age 45 plus about vaginal dryness -- a treatable, yet rarely talked about condition common

Paul Holmes

In conjunction with Pharmacia Corporation, Manning, Selvage & Lee (MS&L) developed the ground-breaking Change of (Love) Life campaign to raise awareness among women age 45 plus about vaginal dryness -- a treatable, yet rarely talked about condition common in menopausal women -- and Vagifem Ò (estradiol vaginal tablet), a treatment option for vaginal dryness with a breakthrough delivery system. This multifaceted campaign included aggressive media outreach with multiple spokespeople, including a highly successful media luncheon, a SMT, and national media outreach. Through integration with DTC Communications, it also included one-of-a-kind consumer ad which further drove media coverage.  Ultimately, PR was the sole consumer communications vehicle Pharmacia used for Vagifem  during 2001, and the successful 1Q launch of the campaign carried Vagifem  through exponential growth through the end of the year.




While the introduction of ViagraÒ revolutionized and generated much talk and media coverage about men’s sex lives, little has been said about the sex lives of women, especially as they enter menopause. Yet research shows a greater number of women (43 percent) suffer from sexual dysfunction than men (31 percent). Painful or uncomfortable intercourse due to atrophic vaginitis or vaginal dryness is commonly associated with menopause, yet few women or healthcare providers openly discuss this sensitive, personal problem.


When Pharmacia launched Vagifem Ò (estradiol vaginal tablet), the first vaginal estrogen tablet to treat atrophic vaginitis, in the summer of 2000, the media hardly took notice. Consumer media resisted covering vaginal dryness and its treatments, citing that the topic was not of high interest to their audience. The same media who had so eagerly and openly written about sexual dysfunction and men were not interested in talking about female sexual dysfunction.   So in 2001, Pharmacia engaged MS&L to create a campaign that would capture the media’s attention and drive Vagifem  awareness among women 45 plus.




To shape the best course of action to drive media coverage, MS&L uncovered the following little-known information:

  • Primary research consisting of a telephone poll of women ages 45 plus suggested that vaginal pain caused by dryness affects sexual relationships: painful intercourse due to vaginal dryness causes one in 15 women to avoid or stop having intercourse. This link between vaginal dryness and intimacy created a PR opportunity to make the Vagifem  story “sexier.”
  • One-on-one interviews with OB/GYNs illuminated that pain related to AV is often overlooked as a reason for women’s decreased interest in sex. Research also revealed that physicians are uncomfortable discussing vaginal dryness and sexual dysfunction with patients. MS&L needed to empower women to speak up and to stop suffering in silence.
  • Literature searches exposed medical articles that linked atrophic vaginitis with female sexual dysfunction. Of five types of female sexual dysfunction, AV-related pain is one of the few that can be effectively treated. Armed with solid evidence, MS&L could build the case that vaginal dryness is a health issue that needs to be talked about and treated.
  • Media analysis revealed that male sexual dysfunction had been covered almost three times as much as female sexual dysfunction. However, through this analysis MS&L uncovered that some female sexual dysfunction press coverage was being generated in advance of the publication of a new book on women and sex by Drs. Jennifer and Laura Berman. MS&L needed to create a compelling reason for media to write about menopausal women and their sex lives. The discovery of this pending book publication presented a promising extension of PR efforts to generate media coverage.
  • MRI data on women 45 plus indicated that they watch talk-shows, TV news and magazine-format TV programs; read lifestyle, gardening and mature market publications; listen to full-service radio stations and are increasingly confident on the Internet. MS&L needed to develop a targeted media campaign.




MS&L developed the Change of (Love) Life campaign to put vaginal dryness into a larger, more acceptable context -- menopause is a life change that affects love life, too. A critical part of the campaign was to identify and work with sexy, passionate menopausal spokespeople willing to speak openly about this sensitive subject.  To reinforce the close link between sex, menopause and Vagifem , the campaign launched on Valentine’s Day with a media luncheon, the universal day to talk about love (and sex). MS&L extended the campaign theme by collaborating with several other communication functions within Pharmacia, including direct-to-consumer and professional communications, to amplify the message and ensure reach to physicians as well as consumers in an integrated fashion.




  • Raise awareness of Vagifem  among women 45 plus by at least 5 percentage points
  • Move the needle of target women’s interest in trying Vagifem  by approximately 2 percentage points
  • Push Vagifem  sales at least 10 percent above $1 million in monthly sales reached prior to campaign




With media hesitant to discuss health issues related to the vaginas of menopausal women, Pharmacia and MS&L had to create a comfortable, captivating context that would encourage media, women and health providers to discuss vaginal health and Vagifem . The campaign used the sizzle of sex to emphasize the role that Vagifem  plays in improving menopausal women’s sexual health.




Based on the research, the team implemented a two-pronged effort to reinforce and maximize reach of the campaign:


Strategic Physician Partnerships: Faced with the expected “buzz” created by the publishing of a new book on women and sex by urologist Dr. Jennifer Berman and sexologist Dr. Laura Berman, MS&L seized the opportunity to join efforts. Through extensive, often stop-and-go negotiations, the team secured these two sexy sisters as product spokespeople. Both doctors were media trained to communicate key Change of (Love) Life campaign messages. By booking them as guests on the much-coveted Oprah Winfrey Valentine’s Day Show, they drew national attention to the issue of female sexual dysfunction. The two doctors talked specifically about changes in sex during menopause and discussed the benefits of Vagifem . Oprah called it “the vagina pill” and visuals of the pill and its applicator were shown on air. Other placements included Lifetime’s Exhale, and, reaching an audience of more than 27 million.


Passionate, sexy patient spokespeople: To coincide with the Bermans’ media buzz, the team set out to launch the next phase of the campaign. To bring the Change of (Love) Life campaign to life, MS&L found the ideal spokesperson in Cristina Ferrare, former supermodel turned talk show host. Cristina’s own struggle with vaginal dryness was the subject of a bestseller (So, I don’t have a Headache), and she was interested in using Vagifem  (she went on the product six weeks before campaign launch). Cristina had a relatively high Q score, the ratio of a celebrity’s favorability and familiarity, among women 45-55. To further humanize the condition, the team discovered a convincing spokesperson in psychologist and Vagifem  user Carolyn Scott Brown, who fearlessly described her personal trials and tribulations as she tried to treat painful intercourse and AV.


Change of (Love) Life National Media Outreach: To cut through the clutter, MS&L developed a video pitch letter to show TV producers how they could cover the sensitive topic of sex and menopausal women. The two-minute video included soundbites from Cristina Ferrare, intermixed with a series of visuals of sexy billboards ads, woman-on-the-street interviews about “what is sexy,” and romantic images of hearts, champagne and lingerie. On Valentine’s Day, MS&L conducted a 21-city SMT and RMT with Cristina and Dr. Lila Nachtigall, an OB/GYN at New York University (and an original Vagifem  clinical investigator), reaching an audience of more than 13 million viewers in markets such as New York City, Los Angeles, Detroit, Dallas, and San Diego. Each interview mentioned Cristina’s success with Vagifem , the toll free number and Cristina also conducted interviews with USA and a live web chat with that drew one of the highest number of participants the site had ever logged.


Change of (Love) Life Women’s Book Luncheon: Also on Valentine’s Day, MS&L hosted a luncheon for women’s magazines at the Heartbeat Restaurant in the W Hotel in Manhattan. MS&L created an invitation for the luncheon in the shape of a chocolate heart with pink icing lettering the luncheon details. Cristina Ferrare and Dr. Lila Nachtigall hosted the luncheon. Fifteen editors from key publications such as Women’s Day, Town and Country, My Generation, and Good Housekeeping attended, and each editor received a red rose, press kit, and gift certificate to Victoria’s Secret. Carolyn Scott Brown was available for interviews by phone. Results included articles in New York Magazine, More Magazine and on, and


Change of (Love) Life Integrated Communications Support: Finally, to amplify campaign messages and create a PR tool, a full-page color ad about vaginal dryness and Vagifem  ran in USA Today, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times on Valentine’s Day. It marked the first time a direct-to-consumer ad addressed these issues in national consumer newspapers. To leverage this, MS&L conducted outreach to advertising and business press about Pharmacia’s bold step one week prior. Resulting coverage included CNN and Newark Star Ledger. Additionally, to alert physicians that patients might ask them about the ad, Pharmacia distributed a Western Union mailing to top-prescribing physicians the week before Valentine’s Day. The sales force also was provided with information about the campaign to answer any physician questions. A toll-free number was established to answer consumer questions about Vagifem .




Objective 1: Raise awareness of Vagifem  among women 45 plus by at least 5 percentage points

Consumer awareness market research conducted post campaign launch showed awareness of Vagifem  jumped 6 percentage points – from 11 to 17 percent


MS&L reached an audience of more than 66 million with Vagifem  messages, attaining more than half of the 2001 audience reach goal within the first three months of the year. The majority of coverage appeared in targeted television, newspaper and magazine outlets, exactly where MS&L would reach the Vagifem  woman.

Approx. 95 percent of the coverage garnered reflected key Vagifem  messages about women’s sexual health, AV, the convenience and effectiveness of Vagifem , as well as the consumer 1-800# and Vagifem  web site.


Objective 2: Move the needle of target women’s interest in trying Vagifem  by approximately 2 percentage points


Consumer research showed that following campaign launch, the number of menopausal women extremely or very interested in trying Vagifem  climbed from 5 to 7 percent.


Objective 3: Push Vagifem  sales at least 10 percent above monthly sales reach prior to campaign


Sales of Vagifem  increased 50 percent in the month following campaign launch. In less than one year, Vagifem  has become the #2 prescribed treatment for AV.

View Style:

Load 3 More
comments powered by Disqus