Colorectal cancer is an unpleasant, lethal and widespread disease, practically taboo in mainstream media. Merck is a pharmaceutical company with cutting edge competency in colorectal cancer that prolongs life expectancy and provides better quality of life, a field in which Merck is not as well known in Sweden and the Nordics as compared to the rest of the world.

Our assignment: Break the relative obscurity and firmly reposition Merck as the most trusted and prioritized brand. Educate the public about colorectal cancer. Educate doctors and nurses about Merck´s remedies (pharmaceutical: RX) for colorectal cancer.

Target groups: Doctors, nurses, patients, relatives, patient associations and media.

Strategy and execution: On a foundation of the maxim “All companies can be a media company”, we launched (  on June 2nd – an online TV-channel, targeting mobile phones to efficiently distribute updated information. The editorial staff (representatives of the target groups equipped with a mobile TV-studio) helped in making scientific reasoning and facts accessible for doctors, nurses, patients and relatives. The editorial staff could visit and report from conferences both in the U.S and in Europe regarding the latest scientific findings, ask questions straight from the viewers to leading experts and turn the site into a
forum for discussion, education and comfort.

Results: Largest cancer news- and TV-channel in the Nordics. A breakthrough with a staggering 3 400 % increase in recognition among oncology medical staff and 10 300 % among patients.

Situation Analysis

Merck is one of the world’s greatest, oldest and most renowned global pharmaceutical companies. One of Merck’s specialities is cancer medicine. However, in the Nordics and Sweden, Merck is somewhat unknown in that area, compared to other countries. Thus we identified a strategic need for Merck to enhance its market position and to establish and maintain a natural channel of
communication aimed at some important – and fastidious – target groups. Merck therefore assigned us to create such a channel in the colorectal cancer area in order to; 1) Lift the brand Merck up to new levels of awareness and reposition it as a familiar, appreciated and prioritized brand among doctors, nurses and patients. 2) Attract doctors, nurses, patients, patient associations and media by offering them valuable information, education and establish an interesting dialogue and a long-term, confident relation. 3) Educate doctors and nurses about Merck´s remedies (pharmaceutical: RX).

Research and Planning

Consumer and industry research as well as Merck´s focus group data guided the overall communications strategy, from how to shape messaging to the best medium of delivery. Results indicated: 1) Colorectal cancer is practically taboo in mainstream media and off topic in health media. 2) The Internet is the first stop for finding health information. 3) There are massive amounts of misleading and dangerous health information available on the Internet. 4) Hospitals in 19 out of 23 County Councils in Sweden block access to the Internet. (Swedish Healthcare's Use of Social Media 2011 by Health Consumer Powerhouse, Swedes and the Internet 2011, Swedish Telecommunications  Market 2010)

Insights: Establish a unique and credible media channel with cancer information, providing easy access on a non-blocked device – the mobile phone.


The overall objective was to make Merck more widely recognized among some chosen key target groups. Primarily, of course, for the world leading medicines and the cutting edge competency in the colorectal cancer area the company actually has. While creating a completely new communications channel,, we and our client also aimed to establish Merck as a distinct, sharp, relevant and interesting interlocutor, easily available for the target groups.
The targets were defined in this way:
•   To lift up Merck from anonymity into a brand prioritized by doctors, nurses and patients.
•   Create a natural channel for communication and education to patients, patient associations and relatives.
•   Educate doctors and nurses about Merck´s remedies (pharmaceutical: RX).
•   Raise interest in
•   Introduce Merck to patients and nursing staff in new areas, such as ASCO  (American Society of Clinical Oncology), ECCO-ESMO (European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress) among others and thus promote curiosity and engagement among the target groups.
•   Create the largest cancer news- and TV-channel in the Nordics.
•   Number of TV-views and interactions: 105 000+ until Dec 31st
•   Increased awareness of Merck among doctors and nurses: 3 400 %.
•   Increased awareness among patients: 10 300 %.
Audience Analysis
To achieve the objectives for the Merck launch on June 2nd, it was critical to align our tiered communications approach to address various audiences. We connected with top-tier national and local influencers  (including Association for Gastrointestinal Disorders, doctors and professors from the Swedish most respected clinics and Institutes, nurses, patients, bloggers, and celebrities) to ensure that key messages would permeate the steady flow of secured coverage and help generate favorable buzz through the nationwide launch.

Strategy and Plan

The challenge of the campaign was to create a communications channel that could reach the selected target groups on their terms via a non-Internet-blocked-device, informally and credibly – without being pushy or advertisement-like – with truly interesting new information of high quality and communicate Merck´s remedies (pharmaceutical: RX) within legal compliance. Our solution: We created a unique TV-channel for the mobile phone –
• was designed as a mobile friendly site and an app, easily and constantly available to all interested.
•   The channel was integrated with Facebook Open Graph in order to measure, separate information towards the different target groups as well as control the spread of information and simplify legal compliance within health marketing.
•   Aligned with the channel we also designed a community for the exchange of knowledge, experience, points of view, comfort and empathy. This community was one of the campaigns most important components.
In order to fill with interesting and relevant content, we established an editorial team to which we invited about a dozen professors, doctors, nurses, patients and other key figures in the colorectal cancer world, all with vast knowledge and genuine commitment. These key persons were able to make their own reporting and interviews about research, care and treatment in the field of colorectal cancer. For instance, they reported directly from big conferences with world leading scientists present and they could ask questions provided by the viewers to these otherwise inaccessible experts. Also, they could very efficiently generate interest in the TV-channel through word-of-mouth. Among these key figures were Lars Påhlman, Professor and surgeon at Kirurgkliniken, Uppsala; Sven Törnberg, Associate Professor at Karolinska Institutet, Solna; Karin Jonsson, President National Association for Gastrointestinal Disorders and Freddy Amigo, patient and a celebrity from the TV talent show Talang 2010.


The campaign was conducted in a succession of steps. 1) for the mobile phone was launched June 2nd in connection with the well-known conference ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) in Chicago. Swedish doctors, nurses, patients, patient associations, relatives and media lacking the opportunity to participate were given the opportunity to see the reporting at and to ask their own questions for scientists, doctors, American patient associations and other key speakers at ASCO, via Merck’s TV-reporters on site in Chicago. 2) In subsequent transmissions, coverage was provided from, for example, ECCO-ESMO (European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress) in Stockholm. 3) The channel’s editorial team helped in making scientific reasoning and facts accessible for patients, relatives and media. 4) It’s important for Merck to be actively involved in its projects. For example, Helena Lundmark, Product Manager, Oncology for Merck AB in Sweden was interviewed and provided the company’s view on the research on colorectal cancer. 5) Enrolled to the editorial team were, among others: Lars Påhlman, Professor and surgeon at Kirurgkliniken, Uppsala; Sven Törnberg, Associate Professor at Karolinska Institutet, Solna; Karin Jonsson, President National Association for Gastrointestinal Disorders, Freddy Amigo, patient and a celebrity from the TV talent show Talang 2010 and Maria Gustafsson-Liljefors, Doctor. They all took advantage of their respective networks and called on doctors, nurses and patients to visit and participate with their questions and input.

Evaluation of Success

Results and expectations were topped already after the first week. We then surpassed the number of viewers we had estimated for the first quarter of the campaign. Measured by the number of viewers, was now the leading communications channel in the Nordics for information, discussion and public education on colorectal cancer.
Quality was equally important as quantity in reaching, and surpassing, the set goals. Patients and various health communities online have begun writing more about Merck – differently from before, more positively and informed. By that we had achieved what we strived for, a natural and prioritized communication channel between Merck and patients. We also succeeded in the ambition to reposition Merck among medical oncology staff as a well-known and appreciated brand.

Measured results
•   TV-viewers and interactions: 105 000+ (100 X target)
•   Increased brand awareness among doctors and nurses: 3 400 % (27 X target)
•   Increased brand awareness among patients:  10 300 % (83 X target)
•   Largest cancer news- and TV-channel in the Nordics.
•   Also, the contact cost was very low – only 0,01 Euro per person.
Also, the contact cost was very low – only 0,01 Euro per person.