When it comes to uncomfortable conversations, talking about painful sex is probably near the top of the list.
People may be worried that others won’t believe them or not take the condition seriously, a challenge many women face when they bring it up to their doctors.
Amag Pharmaceuticals makes Intrarosa, a prescription vaginal insert for use in treating pain during intercourse caused by changes in and around the vagina that happen with menopause. The company has consistently addressed the awkwardness of the condition head on. Its unbranded campaign, Press Pause, featured a social media campaign, called #PainfullyAwkward, to encourage women to speak with someone about their discomfort.
But sometimes, even talking to friends about the condition, known as dyspareunia, can be tough. So Amag went a step further and created a chatbot to give women a private, but interactive, space to learn about the condition.
“These kinds of mobile conversational marketing technologies lend really well to sexual health, because they provide helpful information and engagement within a safe space and a level of anonymity,” said Ryan Billings, executive director of digital engagement at Amag Pharmaceuticals. “It’s the option to do it in the privacy of your own home, to have a resource to get information you need about something private, sensitive and hard to talk about, and not having that awkward face-to-face conversation with a physician that may not even be educated about [dyspareunia].”
The bot, which lives on Facebook Messenger, is a “choose your own path” structure, allowing women to pick from three characters they may identify with to start learning about the condition.
The characters are each at different levels of understanding about dyspareunia. They range from just learning about it for the first time to actively looking for treatments. For each level, the bot gives out certain information. The early-stage character gets information about how to choose the right lubricants, while the treatment-seekers are directed to the product website for Intrarosa or to a doctor discussion guide.
The chatbot is integrated into the unbranded campaign’s Facebook page, which has more than 6,000 followers. The marketing team is also targeting these women with Facebook advertising and ads in women-oriented and lifestyle publications.
This also proves how much the demographics of Facebook have changed over the years. The fastest growing group on the network is women 45 and older, Billings said.
The “choose your own path” structure was chosen to help ease them into using a chatbot, added Cara Peckens, VP of user experience at imre Health, because it is “less intimidating” than other chatbot structures.
“You see a lot of what we call healthcare bots that are [actually] more symptom-checker driven—the user’s keying in symptoms, and it’s spitting out responses,” Peckens said. “We’ve seen a couple on the branded side that are essentially versions of their mobile website, just giving you information already found on their website.”
While regulations about pharma promotions on social media are tough, Amag said the process of developing the chatbot wasn’t. Billings credited close work between the marketing and medical legal teams for its success.
Amag has been “playing catch up” on marketing consumer products, Billings said. The company only acquired its slate of women’s health products in the past couple of years, including the licensing agreement for Intrarosa in 2017. (The product was approved in 2016.)
But that situation has led to their team being more open to taking risks when it comes to marketing, Billings said, adding that Amag had to “change overnight and build out foundational digital capabilities.
“A lot of it has to do with our partners being very open to new ideas where there’s no precedent in the industry,” he said. “But we’re all in this together, knowing that we need to take some risks, within reason.”