Lessons learned from going live on Facebook with a branded drug

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Live broadcasts can be stressful enough for marketers. Now imagine a livestream that needs to follow FDA regulations.


While most innovation in pharma marketing comes from unbranded campaigns, where there's a bit more regulatory freedom, Novocure pushed out of its comfort zone with a branded Facebook Live event for its wearable glioblastoma, or GBM, cancer treatment Optune.


“[Glioblastoma] is not a cancer type we often hear about, so when you're diagnosed with it, there's a frenzy to find information,” said Novocure SVP Pritesh Shah. “Patients and caregivers who are looking for information about this disease should have information at their fingertips and connect with the GBM community. For us, the main interest here was taking a page out of Facebook's mission to bring the world together but to bring the GBM community together.”


The Facebook Live event featured two Optune patients, JB and Brian; their caregivers, JB's brother, Josh, and Brian's wife, Susan; and an oncology nurse as the moderator. For half an hour, the guests told their stories and experiences with using Optune live.


The group talked about their experience with Optune from how they learned to use the wearable device to what day-to-day life is now like.


“It comes down to planning and having participants who are very enthusiastic, because they had to prepare and had to rehearse,” said Cindy Machles, CEO of Glue Advertising, which worked with Novocure on the live event. “We had a draft script approved by regulatory and legal here at Novocure that included patient stories almost in their own words. There was an opportunity to embellish, but we were very clear what the guardrails were.”


A lot of rehearsal went into the live event, Machles said. The patients, caregivers, and moderator were sent the approved script 10 days before the event and they rehearsed over Skype. There was a second live rehearsal the day before and a final rehearsal the morning of the event.


“We had to be very careful not to over-rehearse,” Machles said. “We wanted people talking to one another in a natural living room setting.”


Because it was for a branded treatment, the live event needed to meet the FDA's regulatory standards, including sharing the safety information and major risks. The moderator took on the role of the expert, she sprinkled in the safety, risks, and indication information throughout the 30-minute stream.


Shah and Machles, who both said the live event was a success, are planning another Facebook Live event. The marketing teams measured traffic increases from Facebook on several pages of Optune's website. One page received a more-than-1,900% increase in traffic month-over-month after the Facebook Live event, Machles said. Within 48 hours, the video had more than 12,000 views.


To promote the broadcast to the relatively small GBM community, which sees about 12,000 new diagnoses each year, Novocure partnered with patient advocacy groups to amplify the live event and promote it on its corporate and Optune social profiles.


Shah said the initial goal of the broadcast was to provide another way for GBM patients to get information about the disease and about Optune as a treatment option.


“We want to ensure that we leverage every channel we have to reach our target audience,” Shah said. “The population is not as high as lung and breast cancer, and our own market research suggests there is a frenzy for information. It's important for us to test the boundaries so no matter how the end user is looking for information, it can get to them. We're not done with this platform and what this platform can do for our brand awareness.”


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