How to push the promo without getting a letter
Strategies to help you balance creativity and science―and avoid the dreaded FDA letter.
FDA and medical/legal teams can present you with many obstacles when you are developing a bold biotech brand. The challenge is to be creative and to push limits while staying within the strict confines of biopharma brand promotion.
Biopharma vs. consumer advertising
Anyone involved in pharmaceutical advertising knows there is a huge difference between what you want to say (“we cure cancer!”) and what you are required to say by the FDA and your medical/legal department (“we may help significantly reduce the rate of disease progression by 24.6% in adult patients aged 18 to 64 with stages III-IV cancer in a 12-week clinical study”). Flows off the tongue, doesn't it?
It's so simple in the consumer world, where you can claim your product will make the user slimmer, faster, younger, or more attractive to the opposite sex. Just wearing Old Spice will make you as charming, buff and confident as Isaiah Mustafa. Let's see the clinical data to back that one up.
But our world is different. There's fair balance, side effect profiles and fear of the dreaded FDA letter. All claims must be robustly supported and properly balanced. And all visuals must accurately depict the indication of the product without over-promising the outcomes.
Balancing creativity and science
So, is it possible to launch a distinct and creatively innovative campaign without getting slapped by the FDA or by medical/legal? Of course. But there are a few things to keep in mind as you move forward in directing an agency through the conceptual and development process.
1. Push the limits: It's always best to go in as strong as possible and to back off if need be. If the campaign is strategically and scientifically sound, it will hold up to a little softening.
2. Encourage powerful images: A strong, branded visual can help break through the clutter and get noticed by potential prescribers. Think bold, branded icons.
3. Do not visually overstate efficacy: Although powerful visuals can work, they still must align with clinical support. This means that COPD patients won't be climbing mountains and depressed patients cannot look too happy (a smile is okay, but definitely don't show any teeth!).
Better yet, stay away from patient images to avoid these issues. You want your visual to stand out from the multitude of patients featured in journals anyway.
4. Communicate openly with your medical/legal team: Work together to understand the issues regarding your campaign. Strive to reach a compromise that is both creative and scientifically sound.
5. Trust your agency: Your agency is your creative and strategic partner. It has experience in developing compelling campaigns that comply with the rules and regulations.
Although the creative box can have its limitations, the potential for growing your brand with a high-impact campaign remains limitless.