In an ambitious effort aimed at shifting focus toward the pharma industry’s value, and away from drug pricing controversies, industry lobbying group Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) unveiled a multi-year national marketing and outreach campaign this week.
Against a narrative backdrop of a famous Dylan Thomas poem, PhRMA’s GoBoldly initiative’s first TV ad, "Do Not Go Gentle," focuses on lab-coated biopharma researchers and their "indomitable will to find the unfindable and cure the incurable."
While the lobbying group’s new campaign stresses strides in research, its previous From Hope to Cures campaign was introduced by PhRMA in January 2014 and has placed emphasis on patient stories.
"GOBoldly encompasses much of the messaging in From Hope to Cures, but this is a national effort whereas From Hope to Cures was a regional effort; primarily focused on Washington, DC as that is where we are located," said a PhRMA spokeswoman.
PhRMA, which would only give a ballpark figure of spending "tens of millions of dollars" annually on the effort, said more ads will be introduced throughout the year focusing on scientific advancements and featuring the stories of researchers driving these advances alongside patients benefiting from medicines that are being developed.
"You’ll see the TV ads on morning shows, cable, network evening news and late night. The goal is to run this campaign ideally for a very long time, but at a minimum 3 to 5 years," she added.
Calling the pharma industry "a crown jewel of the American economy," Stephen Ubl, PhRMA’s president and CEO, told CNBC Jan. 23: "The reason we’re launching this campaign is that, unfortunately, much of the public discussion has been myopically focused on drug prices and not on the value that the products bring to patient care, the health care system, and the economy as a whole."
"We have a great story to tell and we’re going to do a better job of telling it," Ubl said, noting the initiative would be "less hoodie, more lab coats." The jab was directed at industry scapegoat Martin Shkreli, who has been painted as the only offender of hiking drug prices.
PhRMA said planning for the campaign began well over six months ago— before the outcome of the Presidential campaign was known. The campaign, which Ubl said isn’t aimed at any one legislative issue, makes almost no mention of the repeal of Obamacare.
PhRMA asked its members for $100 million more in dues in 2016, up 50% over its budget from the prior year, Business Insider said, noting that dues hadn't been this high since 2009, when the industry was lobbying around the Affordable Care Act negotiations. The group is using these funds to kick off the new campaign.
Specifically, PhRMA’s new campaign will include national TV, print, digital, and radio advertising. The group said its redesigned Innovation.org will provide in-depth information about advances in biopharmaceutical innovation and its hashtag #GoBoldly will be used across social media platforms "to salute the sheer will and tenacity of patients and scientists fighting against disease every day."
In addition to ads, the campaign will include public affairs outreach that PhRMA said is aimed at fostering "a national dialogue with researchers, caregivers, patients and policymakers in forums around the country."
“The GoBoldly campaign will be interesting to watch – lots of political implications,” said Heidi Grunkemeyer, vice president and account director at Swanson Russell, a firm specializing in healthcare marketing. "I do think the campaign has a strong emotional appeal and educates consumers on the research and science."