Understand How to Talk With Patients

Is It Important to Catch Their Attention?

Sure it is. If they do not notice the communication, it cannot have an effect. However the form should not overwhelm the content. This means that any communication should be highly relevant to the patients and consistent with the feelings that they have about their condition.  You have to listen to understand how to talk with patients. KEYTRUDA demonstrates great examples of hearing patients. The "Moment" campaign starts by saying, "Everybody remembers the moment they heard, you have cancer." All cancer patients will be able to relate to this statement.  It is a difficult moment.  KEYTRUDA sympathizes.  The ad does not dwell on the despair of the condition. It moves on to the fullness that these patients can feel in their lives, which is supported by using the right treatment.
Later campaigns by the brand focus on how the patient is living with their condition.  These ads are highly positive.

Is Breaking The Rules Dangerous?

Yes.  In the industry, many agencies and clients complain that there is a "sea of sameness" about the advertising that is used.  They are convinced that if the advertising is boring, patients will not pay attention.  The PHEXXI ad took a different approach, to promote the brand for contraception. It shows a woman who welcomes the viewer to her vagina.   This whimsical approach may work very well for this target audience, younger women. Since we did not test this ad, we cannot determine its actual performance.  However, the stock performance of Evofem Biosciences (the company that makes Phexxi) plummeted following the launch of this campaign in 2021.   The company was near bankruptcy when it sold to Aditxt in 2023.  We doubt that the ad was solely responsible for this collapse.  However it did not seem to help anything (notice the sharp drop of the stock immediately following the launch of the campaign).  

What Does Strong Creative DTC Advertising Look Like?

Breaking the rules can mean selecting unique imagery that is consistent with core patient feeling. Competing against VIAGRA, CIALIS needed to find a new way to speak to patients.  It was able to achieve this goal by developing advertising that focused on women's relationship to men.  The advertising stressed sensitivity (unlike the "macho" advertising of VIAGRA).

Effective DTC Communication Is Rooted In Patient Centricity

The idea of “patient centricity” is quite in vogue these days. Many talk about it. ”True” patient centricity can only be achieved if you listen to patients and understand how the condition is affecting them. More than anything, you need to understand how they feel. Emotional response differs by category. Claire Wineland, who suffered from Cystic Fibrosis, cautioned Pharma to not treat patients as cripples. Even though she was dying, she was filled with hope. Emotional triggers of “love," “hope,” and ”peace” work best in DTC communication. Claire said, "A lot of people say when you get a short life span you want to go out and do all of this crazy stuff like go bungee jumping and travel to exotic places. But you just want to live."  She was seeking people and messaging that stressed positivity. The lives of patients can differ greatly by category. Your job is to listen well to what they need. Great patient communications are in the best interest of patients. They must always be at the center of all that we do!