The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare disparities in global healthcare and, as a result, has helped broaden the understanding of health equity in the life sciences industry beyond just racial diversity. Although much of the renewed attention towards diversity and inclusion has centered around clinical trials, advertising and marketing efforts have also been revamped to address cultural equity — and for good reasons.
Consumers are more likely to trust brands that represent diversity in their advertising materials. Even so, a 2021 survey conducted by Meta found that 54% of consumers still don’t feel represented in digital advertising campaigns across industries.
For pharma companies trying to increase outreach, these statistics emphasize the need to improve meaningful representation in ads — a goal that AstraZeneca is aiming at with two recent direct-to-consumer campaigns for its lupus medication Saphnelo and Asthma drug Tezspire.
Both campaigns are designed to represent and personally appeal to the patient populations they target. The Saphnelo “Here for More” campaign attempts to echo the unique relationship lupus patients have with their disease and specific set of symptoms through language and imagery while the Tezspire “Be You” campaign, created in partnership with Amgen, leverages a cast of stereotype-breaking animated characters to show the wide array of patients who experience asthma, but don’t need to let it “define them.”
“It's the hope, it's the positivity, it's the sense that this brand understands them with a message for better days ahead.”
Executive director of marketing for immunology at AstraZeneca
Both are intended to accurately showcase the diversity of patients impacted by the treated condition and how they experience the disease to boost trust spokespeople for the campaigns say.
“We want them to know that [the ad] is coming from a brand that foundationally understands them,” Krista Socha, executive director of marketing for immunology at AstraZeneca noted of the Saphnelo campaign.
How patients view their disease
Saphnelo is the first new treatment for systemic lupus patients on the market in 10 years, and the DTC campaign reflects that, Socha says.
“We've done extensive research as you can imagine in the space being the first new product in 10 years. We've had to be just extremely intentional with all of our work to ensure that we're testing our creative and our media against a truly representative audience,” she explains.
Lupus afflicts roughly 300,000 Americans and disproportionately impacts women of African American, Hispanic and Asian descent. Yet, all patients experience the disease slightly differently because it can impact nine separate organ systems, Socha says.
“Biologists will tell us if you see one lupus patient, you see one lupus patient,” she says. “It's made for a rewarding challenge for us to deliver something that feels deeply personal, but also really motivating for a wide range of patients with lupus.”
The campaign’s ad spot uses a green dot to highlight and connect the systems lupus can attack, including the brain, heart and digestive system, on a diverse group of actors to indicate that Saphnelo works across these parts of the body.
It also speaks to the exhaustion lupus patients experience while managing their symptoms and suggests that Saphnelo can help them expect more out of life. In the ad, two friends hug in a joyful reunion and share a meal, a mother plays tag with her children during a picnic and a group of friends are all smiles as they head out on a bike ride together.
These everyday moments “largely grounded in relationships with others” were important to highlight because they are what lupus patients feel they miss out on most, Socha says, and are the moments Saphnelo aims to give them back.
“We really wanted to ensure that the people we work so hard to understand are at the center of the campaign rather than the disease,” she says. “It's the hope, it's the positivity, it's the sense that this brand understands them with a message for better days ahead.”
AstraZeneca aims to reach 95% of lupus patients with the campaign by the end of the year and is seeking to reach patients on channels they’re already on with video and social media ads.
“This audience is really well connected. They are self-advocates. They're hunting for additional information to help them with their disease,” Socha says. “We want to make sure that we are connecting across those channels.”
Similar to how the Saphnelo campaign speaks to the identity-based way lupus patients view their condition, the Tezspire “Be You” campaign puts faces on the millions of severe asthma suffers to convey that the disease does not have to define their personality.
The campaign uses a cast of five animated characters with stereotype-defying personalities, including Hawk, a muscly, vegan, punk rocker whose asthma is triggered by what he loves most — flowers and furry animals — and a Samoan islander named Kai whose cold-air triggered asthma inhibits his love for ice sculpting, to show that Tezspire can help patients get back to doing what they enjoy.
“We hope patients can relate to some of the characters we created, even if just one or two elements like triggers, hobbies or even appearances,” says Caty Smith, AstraZeneca’s head of marketing for Tezspire.
Amgen and AstraZeneca jointly developed Tezspire as an add-on maintenance therapy for severe asthma in adults and children 12 years or older, and received FDA approval for the therapy in late 2021. The campaign’s characters represent the broad range of severe asthma patients were largely driven by patient insights gleaned during market research sessions, Kate Tansey Chevlen, marketing and sales head for the drug at Amgen says.
“The unique characters in the ‘Be You’ campaign were created to drive audiences to question their own biases and preconceptions to promote inclusivity. It’s important for patients to feel empowered and understand that their asthma doesn’t make them an outcast,” she suggests.
“Our goal is to develop content and support that can help reduce stress and provide emotional relief that can put patients on a path to better asthma control with less effort."
Head of Tezspire marketing at AstraZeneca
The computer-generated animation style is designed to stand out visually from other advertisements to grab viewers’ attention, Chevlen says. Ads for the campaign appear on television, streaming and digital devices — including on weather, gaming, and social media platforms like TikTok — as part of a “360-degree ecosystem… that integrates key tactics like personalized content marketing,” she adds.
For instance, the drugmakers know that patients often check weather apps for information on pollen counts and humidity levels and is seeking to reach them in those moments.
The 360-degree system also includes a custom Spotify playlist for the campaign aimed at soothing patients, including Macaroni Union’s “Weightless” — considered one of the world’s most relaxing songs.
“Our goal is to develop content and support that can help reduce stress and provide emotional relief that can put patients on a path to better asthma control with less effort,” Smith says.
Much like how the Saphnelo campaign aims to inclusively represent Lupus patients, Smith says she hopes the “Be You” campaign shows asthma sufferers that “no one can tell you who you can be or the kind of life you can live.”