Evaluating Pfizer’s “Fear Of Getting Old” Campaign

It’s no secret pharma has a reputation problem. Even worse, it doesn’t appear anyone knows how to fix it. In eyeforpharma’s Industry Healthcheck, a survey of 1,600 senior pharma executives from around the globe, 42% of respondents said they are positive that pharma’s reputation is not improving and only 23% report knowing what to do to fix it.

Pfizer is taking a shot by reaching out to a younger audience and seeing if it can change the perception of the company—at least in their eyes. The pharma company recently refocused their “Get Old” campaign that was first introduced in 2012 with additional content and new social media platforms. That includes an acronym made for the hashtag generation: #FOGO, which stands for “Fear Of Getting Old.” The agency also brought in ad agency Huge to create and produce the new content, according to the New York Times.

That new content includes mix of the humorous and the serious with a #FOGO Quiz that has a slight tongue-in-check tone, humorous videos like this “Ask The Experts” panel featuring two young children, and help with finding a Patient Navigator following a serious diagnosis.

“This is not about selling a product, it’s about our philosophy, reintroducing ourselves,” Sally Susman, Executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs at Pfizer and the person overseeing the initiative, told the New York Times. “The idea is that rather than telling people what we think all the time, we want to listen. We want people to pull this to them, not have it pushed at them.”

PM360 wanted to hear what the industry thinks about this. We asked Jim Lefevere, Director, Global Digital Marketing at Roche Diagnostics, Diabetes Care; Shwen Gwee, Vice President/Group Director, Social Strategy, Digitas Health LifeBrands; and Matthew Zachary, Founder/CEO of Stupid Cancer, a non-profit for those affected by young adult cancer (and a cancer survivor and agency veteran himself), to evaluate the campaign.

What, if any, benefits does the site provide to its target audience?

Jim Lefevere: The benefits are not evident to me. The site could be one small part of a larger communications and advocacy push that they are making. The actual target audience was a little muddy for me. Some parts of the site were visually aimed at someone in mid-life or later while other areas were visually targeted at a younger demographic. It seems the idea overall would appeal to baby boomers or a little older, but they are not always the most attuned to social media.

Shwen Gwee: The Get Old campaign appears to target a very wide range of audiences—both men and women in their 20s, all the way to the 60+ generation and beyond. In the previous/initial rollout of the campaign, it appeared to target the more senior, upper-end of the demographic. But in this new iteration, it appears to have shifted its target to the younger spectrum, as evidenced by the use of the #FOGO hashtag.

As a benefit to its target audience, the site appears to have also changed from being a more engaging, co-creating and energizing “submit your story” type community to a site that has become more of a health and wellness content marketing hub. Hence, the value to the audience has also shifted.

I believe the current value of the site is to provide bite-sized health and wellness stories to: 1) educate and provide preventative wellness tips, 2) inspire them to challenge any preconceived notions of what they can do at their age (whatever  it may be), and 3) help people feel young(er) and feel good about their age.

While I think this is an interesting shift, I am a little challenged by how such content resonates with 20-somethings who typically aren’t thinking about getting old or prioritizing that as something they would need to consider. Having said that, it does feed into that generation’s interest in health and wellness, so perhaps it will be beneficial to those who are seeking such content.

Matthew Zachary: I’ll tell you this—on behalf of the three million Americans who are under 40 living with/through/beyond cancer, we can’t wait to get old because it means we didn’t die from our cancer. I just turned 40 and am now a young adult cancer alumnus—and it’s the best problem to have; to still be here 18 years after I was told I’d be dead in 6 months.

With that said, I like the site. Some of my staff members took the test. They are not survivors and found it “stick-pokingly fun” in their words. The benefits to the target audience are perhaps some kind of age-relevant reality check, if only an intermittent one.

How can Pfizer benefit from the site? Can it help improve the perception or reputation of the company?

Jim Lefevere: If the goal is to personalize Pfizer more or make a large pharma company seem more approachable, it kind of misses the mark. The website is fairly static and I think they missed the opportunity to use video and connect with users. Also, with that type of site, you need to have fresh content, and a lot of it, to keep it interesting.

Shwen Gwee: For Pfizer, this is a bit more of an “above the brand” play. Rather than a direct marketing campaign that talks about the company or the products that it manufacturers (and there are certainly a number of products that they make which relate to aging conditions/diseases), it’s more of a “feel good campaign” to raise the reputation and build trust/credibility with the world’s largest drug manufacturer. Think of it as a way to grow and enhance credibility and trust with a company that is “the sponsor of getting old” and developing an association with health-related issues and conditions that may come with aging.

Matthew Zachary: Pfizer could benefit by capturing the behavior of those who take the survey. It’s fun demographic data to retain, but the quiz should also ask what year you were born. There is a certain humanization of the brand with this effort—but regulatory has forced their tiny logo at the bottom which most people won’t notice IMHO.

What is your impression of the social media presence of the campaign? Will we ever see #FOGO trending?

Jim Lefevere: I wouldn’t be surprised if it trended, but again I think it needs some edgy content in order to cut through the static content. They need to take a page out of the Funny or Die, Upworthy or Dove playbook and do something unexpected with meaning in order for it to really have the potential to trend.

Shwen Gwee: In the current iteration, it certainly does feel much more like a content marketing push compared to the previous version, where people were invited to participate and co-create. I doubt #FOGO will trend, unless they launch some kind of event or experiential marketing campaign that really leverages the hashtag/term in a meaningful (or event humorous) way.

They obviously have some smart people who understand how platforms like Twitter work, but they DO NOT appear to be engaging on those platforms much at all. Instead they are allowing conversations on their social channels to continue organically/independently rather than responding and retweeting or getting involved.

Matthew Zachary: I don’t know if you’ll see FOGO trending in our communities given my opening remarks, but it may have enough kitsch that if you got a celeb to wear a #FOGO shirt, it’s possible. Anything is possible. It’d be interesting to see patient advocacy organizations listed and/or involved or who financially benefit from the campaign in some way. That would incentivize community outreach and engagement because there is a cause-related tie-in.

What can other companies learn or take away from the campaign?

Jim Lefevere: Unbranded or lightly branded efforts with no clear objectives are not great investments. I don’t want to take anything away from the effort because I can see where the idea could have originated from; but with most marketing you can overcome bad strategy with great execution. I don’t see great execution with this. Making the objective of the site clear, targeting a clear demographic and having a great variety of content would be my prescription for #FOGO.

Shwen Gwee: I think other companies can most benefit from understanding the integrated approach to the digital campaign assets, spanning across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and their Get Old website, but tightly integrated across all platforms (e.g., comments on website are integrated with Facebook) and leveraging each channel for specific types of content. They are doing a nice job of mixing custom and curated content.

Matthew Zachary: Given when I know about regulatory, this website is probably considered high risk because it’s out of the standard stoic, dry and “pharma-languaged” pasty websites consumers are used to.


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