With the onset of the fall allergy season, Zyrtec made the bold decision to take its ad campaign viral with an interactive Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style video clip game, Parks Unleashed, on YouTube. This was uncharted territory for both YouTube and the pharmaceutical marketing industry. On September 5th, Zyrtec launched its Parks Unleashed YouTube channel, which featured an interactive game based upon the premise of anthropomorphic dogs acting out the heist of stealing computer tablets from unsuspecting park visitors and burying those tablets throughout the park.
The player was tasked with clicking on various screens and answering different questions, which led the player down different paths in search of the stolen tablets. By clicking through the interactive game that includes talking dogs and quirky characters (Kyle the Krazy Kite King Guy, Roadie Rick, and Diamond Lady, to name a few), the player could earn a chance to win one of 200 Samsung Galaxy Tab Android tablet. The game was available through the Zyrtec YouTube channel for about 6 weeks. During that 6-week time period, the Parks Unleashed YouTube channel had more than 2.2 million views with each player spending an average of 7 minutes playing the game, and returning players spending as much as 30 minutes or more. To date, the Parks Unleashed YouTube channel has had more than 2.6 million views. McNeil Consumer Healthcare integrated its YouTube Zyrtec campaign with its branded website, used a Facebook ad campaign, and included a reference to its YouTube channel on one TV advertisement that ran for about one week.
While Zyrtec is the first pharmaceutical company to utilize YouTube to advertise its product with an interactive game, Pepto Bismol also ventured into the YouTube social media advertising world around Cinco de Mayo this year by creating a YouTube app that allowed visitors to create their own "Pinata Smash" video and share their own video on Facebook or Twitter.
The life science industry may be reluctant to charge forward and take full advantage of the advertising opportunities presented by social media based on the lack of specific guidance from FDA. Typically, the life science industry will use its YouTube presence to post its television advertisements rather than create material specifically for YouTube, much less material that engages the user. John Mack of the Pharma Marketing Blog is cited as stating that the lack of guidance from FDA is an easy excuse, but that is not the real problem. According to Mr. Mack, "What’s holding back the industry is the old axiom: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks. … Social media is alien to both pharmaceutical marketers and corporate communications executives who are used to ‘pushing’ messages out to ‘targets’ rather than engaging in two-way communications with peers, which is the essence of social media."
With both McNeil Consumer Healthcare and Proctor & Gamble dipping their toes into the social media water and using interactive social media to advertise over-the-counter pharmaceutical products, will we see other life science companies follow suit, take a risk and increase their use of social media to advertise their products, both over-the-counter and prescription? Will the statistics of 2.2 million views in a 6-week time period be enough to convince the industry venture out of their advertising comfort zone and give social media a chance?
Sarah Canberg is a compliance associate with Porzio Pharmaceutical Services LLC. She collaborates with other PPS staff to assist in the creation and development of new PPS products and services and to update and manage the content of PPS existing products and services. Canberg is also an associate of Porzio, Bromberg & Newman PC and a member of the firm’s pharmaceutical marketing and sales compliance department.