When marketing orphan products, you want to connect with your audience — connect so deeply that they feel obligated to take action and do something. There is no better way to help create that motivation than through the use of real patients in a campaign.

Real patients have felt the true impact of the disease and the treatment firsthand, creating authenticity and adding emotion…thus, making them the best advocates for your brand. Here are a few examples that attempt to capture the real patient experience.

Dawn Hastings is associate creative director at Dudnyk.

Real patients with spinal muscular atrophy
Product: Spinraza
Manufacturer: Biogen
If I had to describe this campaign in one word, it would be “charming.” It made me well up to think that a treatment could open up such possibilities for children with spinal muscular atrophy. The clever mix of our reality and Sofia’s reality was quite touching, as was the use of augmented reality to drive home the idea that this brand can make the once impossible now a possibility.

A real patient with Duchenne muscular dystrophy
Product: Exondys 51
Manufacturer: Sarepta
Max seems like a pretty cool kid. His smile makes you want to smile right back at him. This is a great example of how incredibly well kids cope with such difficulties. He has Duchennne muscular dystrophy, but is still fun-loving and loveable. Yet this site left me feeling as if something was missing. What does Max like to do? What are his goals? Tell me more! 

A real patient with congenital hemophilia A or B
Product: NovoSeven RT
Manufacturer: Novo Nordisk
Giving children the opportunity to pursue their goals in life is what it is all about. A child with hemophilia, or any other rare disease, shouldn’t be robbed of his or her dreams. This campaign exposes you to a real child and his passions, eliciting a hopeful look at how this brand can enhance his future. 

Campaign: Real patients with Gaucher disease

Product: Cerezyme
Manufacturer: Sanofi Genzyme
Combining images of real patients with their personal signatures gives this campaign a sense of authenticity. Furthermore, the campaign snapshots (literally!) how these patients live their lives in spite of their disease–with the help of their treatment.

Campaign: A portrayal of a patient with non–small cell lung cancer

Product: Keytruda
Manufacturer: Merck
What depicts survival better than showing a grandmother spending time with her grandkids? This campaign communicates the value of Keytruda, with real-life-inspired photography and the personal touch of Sharon’s success story. Although some may argue this isn’t truly a real patient example (it states it’s an actor portrayal), portrayals are, unfortunately, often necessary in such serious diseases.

Campaign: A real patient with hereditary angioedema (HAE)

Product: Haegarda
Manufacturer: CSL Behring
When I look at this campaign, I’m not sure if this is a real patient — nothing here or elsewhere on the site alludes to this idea. This visual, along with other depictions of this patient in active scenarios throughout the site, are somewhat staged and lack the authenticity that would come with using real HAE patients.