Achieving the Impossible: A Humorous, Real-Time, Social Media Campaign

Who said unbranded campaigns can’t have a sense of humor or mirror the likes of some of our favorite non-regulated big brands? At AstraZeneca, we challenged these notions last year with a fun, cross-channel social campaign to increase awareness of high triglycerides among patients.

The campaign, entitled Take It From a Fish, included content comprised of humorous puns on Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and an unbranded website. The content was witty yet informative, delivering disease education in a new and relatable way.

THE ISSUE: Delivering Instant Content on Social Media

Aside from being humorous while also delivering informative content, Take It From a Fish pushed the boundaries that require content to be approved weeks ahead of time. We were able to get to a place in which regulatory was helping to co-create content on the fly—a first for us.

This allowed us, as a company, to use social in the way it was meant to be used: A transparent, real, honest and open two-way instant conversation. Additionally, we took things a step further by interacting with other big brands on Twitter, such as JetBlue, and sports figures and celebrities including NHL player Mike Fisher and Chef Jamie Oliver.

We also used new Twitter features, such as lead gen cards, which allowed our Twitter followers to sign up for our email list right on Twitter, instead of having to click into first. The emails include helpful tips and tools about managing very high triglycerides, as well as fun information including healthy recipes and fitness tips. Users could also send eCards in the form of a “Fish Slap” through the campaign’s unbranded website, which is a light-hearted, healthy dose of information regarding high triglycerides.

TARGET AUDIENCE: The Power of Social Targeting

We knew that women who enjoy finding healthy recipes online would fall into one of our segments. We were able to reach this segment, among others, directly through ad targeting tools. This is one of the beauties of social campaigns: They are affordable but also the most highly targetable, down to specific niche audiences. And the big social platforms are only getting more advanced with their targeting methods, making it easier than ever to reach specific segments.

THE APPROACH: Using Humor to Draw in the Audience

Focusing on a cross-channel strategy was key to the success of this campaign. All of the content worked together across each digital and social platform and was cross-promoted with the unbranded website serving as the “hub” to the social “spokes.” Perhaps the best content, however, came from our Fish Talk show on YouTube (, featuring two witty fish, Sal and Marty.

In each episode, the duo go back and forth on a variety of topics. The first couple of videos mix in random topics such as love nuances of the English language. Discussions around a healthy diet and high triglycerides are slowly introduced and by the final video this is the main topic of discussion. Easing your customer base into the disease state conversation by starting with humorous topics can be a great way to captivate your audience from the get-go. No need to dive right in!

THE RESULTS: Best Health Videos Ever?

As far as measuring success and quantitative learnings, altogether we had more than 740,000 interactions across social channels with potential patients. We garnered more than 10,000 Twitter followers, saw more than 1,100 website hits per day, and received more than 733,000 views on YouTube. We also saw a 10% increase in triglyceride-oriented searches on Google in just three months and Google referred to Fish Talk as “The best videos we’ve seen from health.”

Five Lessons Learned

Other key, qualitative learnings that we discovered over the course of this campaign include:

1. Align social and digital to your brand objectives. Social shouldn’t be a supplement to your strategy, but should be completely aligned to what you are trying to achieve. Every element of your campaign should be linked back to one of your brand objectives so that when it comes to measuring your campaign you don’t dwell on vanity metrics, but can truly see the impact social has had on the delivery of a brand strategy.

2. Listen to your customers. Start with social listening to set the stage and the strategy. We used social listening to find out who our potential patient really was. Where were they on social? What channels? What types of content would resonate with them? Would they even appreciate a funny, talking fish?

3. Healthcare can have a sense of humor. Health is obviously a very serious topic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a sense of humor. By using a lighthearted tone, we can make our campaigns and our company more relatable to our customers, patients, HCPs or the public. This won’t work with every disease state, but it can work, especially if your social insights say so.

4. Live in the moment. Social lends itself to reactivity. It is built on the principle of two-way conversation, so being able to listen and respond should be a key requirement for any social component. Being reactive to trending topics is also a great way to feel timely and resonate with customers.


5. Have an exit strategy. Or, be ready to shift your campaign if your brand strategy goes in a different direction. At the end of last year, a decision was made to put the fish campaign on hold. But instead of shutting the channels down or letting them sit there without fresh content, we’ve found ways to use the channels. For instance, @fromafish was recently very chatty on Twitter during the American College of Cardiology Annual Scientific Session & Expo (see above). By delivering relevant content during events to our Twitter followers, we’re still utilizing the following we had built up.

  • Ryan Billings

    Ryan Billings is Director, Social Strategy at AstraZeneca. Ryan is part of the U.S. Customer Experience + Innovation team at AstraZeneca where he is responsible for developing and implementing brands’ social media strategies.


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