How we brought patients and their doctors closer together

Modern science has given us cures for many diseases and syndromes. However, many people still miss out on treatment because they are unaware of the symptoms of said diseases and syndromes. Therefore, Pharmaceutical giant MSD asked iO's help to create two campaigns for two different syndromes that face the same communication problem. The message of both campaigns? Raise awareness, raise awareness and raise awareness. The goal? To change the mindset of the target group by making people aware of both the potential dangers and solutions.

The problem of the problem

MSD (known in the US and Canada as Merck) is one the world’s leading bio-pharmaceutical companies and has been contributing to the care and improvement of global health for over 130 years. To this end, MSD develops drugs and vaccines, but also takes the lead in research and prevention of cancer, infectious and animal diseases.

Melanoma and HIV are two syndromes that thousands of Belgians have to battle. Melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, has 1,000 to 1,200 new cases every year in Belgium. The figures for HIV, the retrovirus that causes AIDS, are similar.

One of the biggest causes of people with Melanoma and HIV being treated late or not at all, is poor communication between patient and doctor. Sometimes this poor communication stems from ignorance. In other cases, it’s simply due to the fact that people are reluctant to talk about a condition that is still taboo in our society. However, clear, and especially timely communication can have a huge impact on treatment.


Improve communication between patients and their doctors


Awareness campaigns centered around Melanoma and HIV

About MSD

MSD (known as Merck in the US and Canada) is one of the world's leading biopharmaceutical companies and has been contributing to the improvement of global health for over 130 years. To this end, MSD develops medicines and vaccines; but it also takes the lead in research and prevention in the field of cancer, infectious diseases, and animal diseases.

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The goal

The goal for both campaigns was clear: to bring the issue of poor communication to the attention of both (potential) patients and healthcare professionals.

  • For melanoma, we wanted to make people aware of the dangers while encouraging them to regularly check their skin (or have it checked).

  • For HIV, the task was to show patients and healthcare professionals that certain symptoms are not necessarily a direct consequence of the disease, but are often just as much side effects of a treatment they are receiving.

Through the campaigns, we hope to get both patients and doctors to communicate better with each other in order to see whether appropriate treatment can bring relief.


The approach

Despite the seriousness of melanoma and the risk present, MSD and iO decided not to focus on the doom that mistreatment or negligence can bring, but rather to positively motivate the screening and protection phase. Not to scare people off, but to use stopping power to confront them with reality. Convincing them to see a dermatologist sooner and get tested if necessary. Because that is the most efficient way to detect malignant spots and prevent (worsening) skin cancer.

With the HIV campaign, we wanted to achieve something similar: make people reflect on the facts, but also give patients hope. Hope for more bearable symptoms, by showing them stories of peers who found a treatment that works better for them.

Using emotion as a trigger

Emotions are often the nudge a target audience needs to take action. And in order to create a message that truly resonates, you need a medium that amplifies emotion. That's why we chose real stories from real people and used video as the primary format for the campaigns. 

The Lifesaver Tattoo

The melanoma campaign relied on a creative concept: 'The Lifesaver Tattoo'. In a video, we hear a gripping testimony of a patient who discovered she had melanoma during a visit to the tattoo shop. During the video, the flower tattoo blooms during good moments and withers during bad ones as the story progresses. The pay-off sums up this symbiosis very nicely: 'Your skin lives with you. Get it checked regularly.' The happy ending illuminates the testimony and makes sure the target audience does not secretly remain deliberately blind to blemishes.

Unambiguous message

HIV treatment may not guarantee a carefree life, but tailored treatment can significantly increase the likelihood of tolerable symptoms. We translated that thought into a concept:

'Do you have HIV and don't you feel well?

Talk to your doctor about it.'

It's a direct, no-holds-barred message that provides the right clarity. One that people need to take action and see a doctor or specialist (or vice versa, depending on the target group).

Targeted distribution

You also need to be aware of where your target audience is, and how to reach them. You have to deliver the right message via the right channel at the right time. That is why we set up a sophisticated flow with ads on social media, posters, an email campaign, brochures, ... all with a positive textual and visual language, using the problem as the starting point, but, above all, the possible solution as the spearhead.

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