Paul Holmes 10 May 2001 // 11:00PM GMT
CPR Worldwide wanted to shape the thinking of key international medical and financial journalists in order to create awareness of Nexium, turn negative speculation into positive coverage and, as a result, to maintain and enhance AstraZeneca's share price value. Media confidence of Nexium's potential has increased tremendously since the launch in May 2000 of the Nexium Press Office website, which offers journalists a quick, easy and credible means of reviewing the latest news, scientific abstracts and independent third-party opinions. Journalists who have visited the Nexium Press Office write articles that are more positive, comprehensive and on-message than the average Nexium article; suggesting that the materials placed on the website have been effective in shaping positive opinion of Nexium. A few of the financial analysts who have visited the site have been quoted in multiple financial articles discussing Nexium, each time with a rating† higher than average.
All eyes of the pharmaceutical community were on AstraZeneca. Nexium, a new proton pump inhibitor from AstraZeneca, is the successor to Prilosec, the world's top selling pharmaceutical product that earned AstraZeneca $6 billion in 2000. Within the financial community, many believed that the performance of Nexium would be critical to the financial future of AstraZeneca. CPR was well aware that both financial investigators, as well as the medical community, would be closely studying coverage of Nexium clinical data pre-launch to make their own assessment of the therapy's potential.
The omens for success were not positive. "No company has so far ever been able to follow up a blockbuster drug with a blockbuster successor." Prestel, December 1999
"[In the past] what has held Astra shares back has been partly the uncertainty around how Nexium would be an acknowledged successor to Losec…" AstraZeneca's Revenge, Dagens Industri, (Swedish financial broadsheet), July 2000.
OBJECTIVES & STRATEGY
CPR needed to create an effective tool to shape the thinking of key international medical and financial journalists in order to create awareness of Nexium, turn negative speculation into positive coverage and, as a result, to maintain and enhance AstraZeneca's share price value. The first public presentations of Nexium clinical data at the Digestive Diseases Week, in San Diego, in May 2000, gave us the opportunity to begin media relations with key journalists in advance of Nexium's first launch in Sweden, in August 2000.
Due to FDA regulations, we were unable to use the US media as a vehicle to communicate data from a US congress to journalists in the early launch markets in Europe. The cost, time and ethical implications of flying journalists from Europe to attend the meeting in San Diego were prohibitive. Instead, we agreed a virtual press office would be an effective means to rapidly communicate Nexium clinical data, and to shape initial thinking on Nexium, to key journalists around the world.
The site, www.NexiumPressOffice.com was created to include multiple press releases (highlighting data from 15 key abstracts), the full array of official DDW abstracts, photographs and biographies of speakers, and video presentations with synchronised slides. Nexium Press Office is one of a few product-focused websites to have a search facility. It also contains PR contact details, an e-mail question facility and links to relevant third-party and AstraZeneca sites.
The website was launched in conjunction with an on-site telephone press event. Following an introduction from an international patient group, highlighting the need for improved acid related disease therapies, two Nexium investigators, leading international gastroenterologists in their own right, presented top-line clinical data on Nexium.
More than 60 journalists visited the Nexium Press Office at time of launch, with 35 journalists simultaneously participating in the telephone press event. Twenty-one financial analysts also accessed the site during the Digestive Diseases week, as the website offered the most detailed overview of the Nexium data available to interested audiences outside of San Diego. On launch day, AstraZeneca's share price closed up 1.5% in London and 2.1% in Stockholm on a day when the overall market was down.
Detailed media analysis and web tracking in the months that followed have allowed us an insight into the success of the site. We know that opinion-leading journalists are visiting the site, as have influential media outlets. Of the 1000 articles produced in six months in the early launch markets (Sweden, Germany and UK) 400 articles were generated by only ten news outlets. Senior journalists from eight of these ten outlets have visited the site. Further visitors to the site include newswires (Reuters, Bloomberg, Dow Jones, Nyhetsbryan Direkt), national broadsheets (Finanstidningen, Dagens Nyheter, The Independent, Jyllands-Posten, De Huisarts) and medical publications (New England Journal of Medicine, Lancet, Artze Zeitung, Dagens Medisin, Scrip, Pharmaceutical Journal).
“AstraZeneca has done a fine job pre-marketing Nexium… Nexium already has its own website and logo, and Tom McKillop, the company’s chief executive has drip-fed investors a diet of fresh data on the drug.”
The Independent (UK national daily broadsheet), July 2000
The journalists who have visited the site write Nexium articles that are more positive, comprehensive and on-message (average rating of 58) than the average Nexium article (55 pre DDW; 56.8 post DDW); suggesting that the materials placed on the website have been effective in shaping positive opinion of Nexium. Media confidence of Nexium's potential has increased tremendously since the May 2000, with the percentage of favourable key messages communicated leaping from 64% pre-May to 72% post-May.
A few of the financial analysts who have visited the site have been quoted in multiple articles discussing Nexium, each time with a rating higher than the average. For example, Bill Blair, of the Japanese investment bank, Nomura, was quoted in eight articles; resulting in those articles achieving a combined average rating of 64.2, compared to the 56.8 standard.
"Blair has a 'buy' rating on AstraZeneca and expects Nexium to be a big seller", Reuters, May 2000
Following the successful use of the Nexium Press Office to communicate early clinical data, the site was expanded and update to follow the approval and early market launches of Nexium. At three further congresses in 2000, the Nordic meeting of Gastroenterology, European H. pylori Study Group Meeting and United European Gastroenterology Week, the site was updated with new media materials, video interviews of independent gastroenterologists and clinical abstracts. The successful combination of new highlights, detailed scientific background data (accepted clinical abstracts) and independent third-party quotes, has resulted in regular visits by 120 journalists from 22 countries worldwide - seeking to develop their own opinion on the first major product launched by the newly-merged AstraZeneca.
While the Nexium Press Office is but one tool in the Nexium marketing armoury, fantastic early sales of Nexium were achieved. "Nexium wholesale orders had reached £1.25 million - the highest ever recorded for a new drug in the UK on its first day. Financial Times, September 2000
† All articles begin with a neutral rating of 50 which is raised (more positive) or lowered (more negative) based on a number of characteristics such as strength and presence of key messages, sources quoted, tone, article placement and prominence. (As defined by Echo Research media analysis).