What pharmaceutical BRANDS have used a mission (purpose) to market to a consumer audience?
Exhaustive search of the public domain indicates that case studies on pharmaceutical advertising are non-existent, and media coverage on the specified topic is scarce. The most relevant media mentions of purpose-identified pharmaceutical advertising in the past three years are the Theraflu 'Powering Lives' campaign and the Bayer aspirin 'HeroSmith' campaign. However, both of these are over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Research of individual drug campaigns for recent top-selling drugs generated two more examples of patients helping others due to their increased capacity while using the drug (Humira and Lyrica), but this advertising strategy is implied rather than explicit. Below you'll find my methodology and relevant findings.
I began by researching for pre-compiled analyses or case studies of pharmaceutical product campaigns that associated product use with helping others, making the world a better place, and other variations on purpose-driven themes. This search generated advertising media coverage of the Theraflu 'Powering Lives' campaign and the Bayer 'HeroSmith's' aspirin campaign. While media coverage of pharmaceutical advertising does exist, much of it is broad and focuses on the ethical implications of DTC advertising; these campaigns are the most relevant examples discovered in my research of purpose-driven pharmaceutical advertising that are covered by third-party analysis. However, while branded, these products are also both OTC. For this reason, I continued searching for examples by researching individual pharmaceutical product print and TV campaigns. In the standard time allotted for a single Wonder request, this generated two more examples of a 'soft sell' purpose: both Humira and Lyrica have recent TV ads that show patients being able to help others by virtue of their use of the drug, but this is implicitly implied and is not an explicit theme of the overall campaign.
HERO STORIES IN PHARMACEUTICAL ADVERTISING
As you may already be aware, 'hero stories' are a growing trend in pharmaceutical advertising. All of the four examples discovered in my research are a variation on the 'hero story':
- taking Theraflu in order to 'power through' to help others or be present in a critical situation;
- carrying Bayer aspirin as a first-aid therapy in cases of suspected heart attack;
- taking Humira and Lyrica to enable the patient to live a fuller life, which includes volunteering and helping others.
While I also researched specifically for quality of life and family connection stories, my research did not generate any comparable examples. This doesn't mean that they don't exist, just that the lack of existing analyses or case studies makes their discovery more time-consuming.
THERAFLU'S 'POWERING LIVES' CAMPAIGN
As noted above, Theraflu is a OTC medication. However, it is one of the two clear examples of an entire campaign using the purpose of helping others as the primary emotional driver in the campaign for using the medication. The campaign itself dates from 2014, but the theme 'Powering Lives' is still in use on the Theraflu website. MM&M, which covers medical media and advertising specifically, notes that the Theraflu campaign is "a series of mini-documentaries about people who “power through” the flu, in order to continue doing work that helps other people, such as providing food to homeless communities in Los Angeles." My research discovered at least two of these mini-documentaries, and a general commercial associated with the campaign:
- What Powers You: #Hashtag Lunchbag
- What Powers You: Rescue Road Trips
- Theraflu commercial: Serious Power
BAYER ASPIRIN 'HEROSMITHS' CAMPAIGN
The Bayer aspirin 'HeroSmiths' campaign was sufficiently distinguished to garner it the 2017 "Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) Industry Leadership Award for Advancing Self-Care." Like Theraflu, it is also an OTC medication. This campaign is designed to encourage people to carry aspirin as a first-responder heart attack treatment. Bayer recruited nearly 2,000 people with the surname 'Smith' in an Arkansas town with a "high rate of heart attacks" to carry aspirin with them as a regular habit. The emotional driver behind the campaign is that everyone wants to be a hero. Additionally, the promoted action is easy and inexpensive to undertake. This campaign was primary released over social media.
BRANDED PRESCRIPTION PRODUCT CAMPAIGNS
Both Humira and Lyrica have released TV ads for their products which show the actor/'patient' engaging in helpful activities. This helpfulness is implicit, unlike the Bayer Aspirin and Theraflu campaigns; and it does not extend across all the ads for the entire campaign. However, these were the only examples I found in my research timeframe which were specific to non-OTC products.
Humira released two TV commercials that show the actor/'patient' helping others. One is participating in a community food drive, the other is volunteering in a playground construction project.
- Video 1: community food drive
- Video 2: volunteering
Lyrica released at least one TV video commercial that shows the actor/'patient' engaging in a multi-generational interaction and helping others.
To wrap it up: though they represent OTC products, the Theraflu 'Powering Lives' and Bayer Aspirin 'HeroSmiths' campaigns are the most salient examples of purpose-driven pharmaceutical advertising which have received any notable media coverage. Other implicit examples include TV ads for Humira and Lyrica featuring actors/'patients' helping others.