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Big Canadian Pharma Hoping to Make Video go ‘Viral’

Many Canadian companies donate to charitable organizations.  They write a cheque, have a press release with a photo of key people from both organizations holding a mega-sized cheque, and oftentimes the promotion fizzles from that point on.

Pfizer Canada Inc. is taking a unique approach in ensuring that its sponsorship of Canada’s Paralympics Team gets noticed by Canadians, all while promoting their MoreThanMedication.ca website.  Last week, Pfizer Canada posted a video honouring Canada’s Paralympics Team on their MoreThanMedication.ca website, which features the strength and passion of Team Canada sledge hockey player Todd Nicholson.

The objective is to make the video go ‘viral’ and get viewed by as many Canadians as possible in order to raise awareness about the Paralympics taking place in Vancouver, and the determination and passion of the Paralympics athletes.  Viewers of the video are encouraged to share it with their friends and networks either via FaceBook, Twitter, Digg, Delicious, or even by e-mail.  Everytime they do so, Pfizer donates $5.00 (Cdn) to the Canadian Paralympics Team, up to a maximum of $50,000 (Cdn).

Here is the statement that automatically appeared on my Twitter and FaceBook accounts when I clicked on the share button.  Notice that there is no mention of Pfizer or of the $5 donation.  Personally, I believe a mention of the donation by Pfizer would have peaked more people’s interest and would have increased the number of views;

I also saved the video on Delicious and gave it the thumbs up on Digg, but so far it appears that only two people have done so on these particular networks.

In order to reach its goal of $50,000, the video needs to be shared 10,000 times.   By early Monday morning, March 14th, approximately an entire week after having launched the video, the digital counter on the MoreThanMedication.ca website showed that Pfizer had raised a total of $20,400 via the sharing of the video so far, which equates to 4,080 views.

Note that this is the number of views, not the number of unique viewers.  For example, I shared the video via all 5 methods that were made available (Twitter, FaceBook, Delicious, Digg and e-mail), which counts as 5 views.  But one also needs to consider that it is possible that more people viewed the video and shared it and that these ‘shares’ did not get counted for the donation. For example, if somebody shared the video by retweeting or copying and pasting the statement into their profiles without going directly through the MoreThanMedication.ca website, these ‘shares’ would not be counted.  This is because Pfizer is monitoring the number of ‘shares’ via their internal web analytics.

Although the campaign is meant to raise awareness within the Canadian population, viewers from other countries are not prevented from sharing the video and contributing to the donation per view.

After the campaign is completed, it would be interesting to get a breakdown of the percentage of viewers who shared the video link via e-mail, FaceBook, Twitter, Digg and Delicious.  My guess is that e-mail and FaceBook will be the two predominant methods of sharing of the video.  Here are some statistics to support my rationale;

1) Despite the fact that the share of Canadian Internet visits surpassed e-mail in April 2009 (HitWise, May 2009, chart below), e-mail is still ranked in 4th position.

2) The most popular social network with Canadians is FaceBook.  Canadians have low awareness of Digg and Delicious, and appear to minimally use these social bookmarking networks (CNW Group and Leger Marketing, Social Media Reality Check, April 2009, chart below).

What about YouTube?

So far, I have been unsuccessful in finding the Paralympics video by Pfizer on YouTube.  It would have been interesting to see how many views the video could have had via YouTube, especially considering that YouTube is the 2nd most used social network by Canadians according to the CNW Group and Leger Marketing study.  My gut tells me that this medium was intentionally not included because Pfizer Canada wants Canadians to visit the MoreThanMedication.ca website, and posting the video on YouTube may have diluted this particular objective.  However, I do believe that the video would have more viral ability if it were made available on a Pfizer Canada channel on YouTube.  What are your thoughts on this?

A purely Canadian initiative:

Pfizer Canada’s MoreThanMedication.ca website is a purely Canadian campaign, as is the video honouring Canada’s Paralympics Team.

Canadian regulatory guidelines:

The campaign appears to be fully within the Canadian regulatory guidelines as there do not appear to be any product mentions on either the website or the videos.

Pfizer Canada has tested social media before:

Some of you may recall that Pfizer tested the social media environment last year with their “Be Brave” campaign.  This was another campaign devised to raise funds for another charitable organization, Starlight Children’s Foundation.  The only sharing option at the time appears to have been e-mail. According to the information that I found on their MoreThanMedication.ca website, it appears as though they reached their objective of raising $50,000 via the sharing of this particular video.

Search “Be Brave Pfizer” in YouTube, and you will find that the “Be Brave” video that was posted on the CNW Group channel garned 22,230 views over the past year, which ranks it as the 2nd most watched YouTube video on the CNW Group channel.


Many thanks to Veronica Piacek, Director Consumer Communications & Relations at Pfizer Canada, for taking the time to share her insights with me regarding this Pfizer social media campaign.

Congratulations to the Pfizer Canada team, and their suppliers who have assisted them with the video in honour of the Canadian Paralympics Team;  Klick Communications (morethanmedication.ca website), Zig Toronto (video creation) and Strategic Objectives (PR agency).  And most of all, best wishes in making the Canada’s Paralympics Team video a viral success and raising $50,000.


What do you think of this Canadian pharma social media example?  What would you do the same, what would you do differently?  There is no judgement here, it is just a discussion so that we can learn from one another.

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Cold-FX: A Fun Canadian Healthcare Social Media Campaign

More and more Canadian healthcare companies see the benefit of leveraging social media for their businesses.  Here is a really interesting example that caught my attention because it encompasses what is critical for a successful social media campaign:  lots of interaction and viral effectiveness.  It also appears to follow the Canadian regulatory guidelines.  Learn more about the Cold-FX social media campaign here.


Afexa Life Sciences, a medium-sized Canadian company with a variety of over-the-counter (OTC) products, has launched a fun social media campaign in November 2009 to leverage their sponsorship of the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, BC (“Cold-FX: Official cold and flu remedy of the 2010 Winter Games”).  Cold-FX is the brand that is sponsoring the Olympics and is the backbone of this fun social media campaign.

There are 3 components to this campaign;

1)      a FaceBook fan page with over 800 fans within 3 months and most importantly a high level of engagement by the fans,

2)      a Twitter account which has grown in popularity since their existence on Twitter as of September 2009, and

3)      a very popular  ‘Athlete of the Year’ video which can be customized with your name, or that of a friend.  The video was launched on November 19th and as of December 4, has already been viewed over 28,000 times (Source:  Data on file, Afexa Life Sciences).

If you look through the FaceBook and Twitter posts by Afexa, you will notice that there is no mention of the brand Cold-FX.  All of the posts by Afexa are related to their Olympics Trivia game.

Moreover, the ‘Athlete of the Year’ video has only a minimal amount of branding as well, as shown in the photo below.

Cold-FX 'Athlete of the Year' viral video

(… and for the record, the only way that I could be recognized for any athletic skills whatsoever would be if running after a 2-year old while talking on the phone with a client and taking notes of our discussion were a sport … thank goodness I have the most understanding and wonderful clients in the world  …)


On Friday December 4th, I had an opportunity to speak with Justin Jones (Director Digital Strategy) and Hardeep Gosal (Online Community Manager) of Afexa Life Sciences to discuss their Cold-FX social media campaign.  Here are a few highlights of our discussion:

  • New to social media:  The Cold-FX campaign is the first social media campaign for the company.
  • Taking small steps at a time:  They started by monitoring to find out where their consumers were online, what they were saying about the brand, the sentiments of their comments and the reach of forwarded messages.
  • Deliberately being conservative: The main objective of the campaign is to build relationships with the consumers, therefore messages are kept neutral and non-branded to give the consumers an opportunity to get to know the company and feel comfortable to communicate with them.

The snapshot below was taken of the Cold-FX Twitter profile at the end of the day on December 7 2009.  It demonstrates the neutral, non-branded messages being posted by the company.  As for the design of the Twitter profile, the only branding consists of the “Cold-FX” name found on the left and the right side of the screens.

Cold-FX Twitter profile

  • Selling the idea to senior management:  1) Showed them the analysis of a full year’s worth of social media monitoring, and 2) presented a variety of real cases.
  • Building up a follower-base is a long process but well worth the time and effort.
  • Company wide initiative:
    • Approximately 16 months prior to the launch of the social media campaign, all employees had an opportunity to discuss their feelings, knowledge and comfort level with social media.  Justin captured the corporation’s learning culture by stating that:  “The more we educate our employees about visual technologies, internet, mobile technology, social media, the more internal support we are likely to gain in the months ahead for our social media campaign.”
    • Training then took place to educate our employees on the use of social media.
    • Firewalls do not block employees from logging onto social media networks at work, although there is a social media policy in place to avoid abuse.
    • As part of their social media policy, Afexa Life Sciences’ employees are encouraged to not talk about product or anything financial.
    • Followers’ engagement with the company via social networks is creating a lot of positive energy and excitement in the organization, and employees are motivated by this.
  • Biggest challenge in managing a social media campaign:  Being new to social media, the organization expects to make mistakes and learn from them.  However, the social networks frequently change the landscape, rules and regulations.  To work through these changes, the organization is partnering with suppliers who maintain a close pulse on upcoming changes within the various social networks in order to help predict and manage upcoming changes.

The FaceBook fan page “wall” snapshot below describes the quick change that the Afexa Life Sciences team needed to implement to stay within FaceBook’s revised contest policy:

Afexa reacted quickly by launching a FaceBook application on December 9 2009, which now allows them to continue their trivia contest on FaceBook while staying within the FaceBook policies.  Just check out the ‘Trivia Contest’ tab on their FaceBook page and you will be brought to the new application.

  • Measuring ROI:  Be clear on your objective for implementing a social media tactic and determine ROI measurements based on that information.  Afexa’s main objective for the Cold-FX social media campaign is not financial.  Instead, the main objective is to build relationships with consumers.  Some of the measurements for this campaign consist of;
    • Number of followers
    • Frequency of engagement
    • Sentiments of consumer communications online
    • Click-through to the Cold-FX website
  • 5 Key Learnings from Afexa Life Sciences:
  1. Leverage monitoring tools to see what people are saying about your brand and the general sentiment of their communications, as well as identify demographics of the consumers who are talking about your brand online and what platforms they are using.
  2. Stay focused on 1 or 2 social media platforms rather than all of them.  Go through the experience with the selected platforms, learn from it, and then scale onto other platforms if your objectives direct you that way.
  3. Leverage partners who are dealing with some of the social networks that your brand is involved with.  Dealing with a company that has an idea of upcoming policies will save you a lot of time and a lot of money.
  4. From an internal organizational perspective, take the time to carefully draft a social media policy and respect everybody’s level of comfort with social media when presenting internally.
  5. Embrace social media.  Social media is here whether we like it or agree with it.  Google Sidewiki is a perfect example; people can comment on your brands or organization whether you give them the platform to do so or not.

Hardeep summed it up nicely with the following comment:

“The conversation is already happening with your product, so why not get involved.  Companies are often afraid of negative feedback, but we have found that brand advocates balance the conversation with positive comments.  Brand advocates -see who they are and develop relationships with them.”

Regulatory considerations for the Cold-FX social media campaign: Cold-FX is approved in Canada as a Natural Health Product, therefore it has more flexibility than a prescription product in terms of regulatory guidelines in its promotions.  I asked Ray Chepesiuk, the PAAB Commissioner, for his regulatory insights with regards to this campaign.  Here was his response;

“The Cold-FX social media campaign is brilliant and appears to be well within the regulatory guidelines.  You can do a lot more with consumers with an NPN product from a regulatory perspective because you can actually advertise with claims.  You can talk about your drug, but the only caution is to make sure that fair balance is included and indications stated correctly in accordance with the product’s license.  It appears that Afexa Life Sciences have respected the linkage policies of Health Canada in this campaign.  If there is promotion, they must follow section 9(1) of the Health Canada’s Food and Drugs Act.”

Kudos to Afexa Life Sciences for taking on this initiative with passion and enthusiasm, and for giving a chance to their consumers to have so much fun with the campaign.

GIVEAWAY: Afexa Life Sciences has kindly offered to give away 5 COLD-FX Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games Hockey 3-Pin Sets to those who write comments about this post.  For those who decide to write a comment, I will be in touch with you to gather your shipping information (so please do not include that information as part of the comment).  If more than 5 people write comments, then we’ll have to make it a draw in which case everybody who writes a comment will be given a number (ie. the 1st to write a post is assigned the number ‘1’, and so on) and then will be randomly selected with the use of the random number generator Random.orgDeadline is Wednesday December 16th, 11:59 pm.  Draw (if required depending on number of comments) will take place on Thursday December 17th (to give us enough time to ship you the pin-sets in time for the holidays if you plan on giving as a gift).

DISCLOSURE: Afexa Life Sciences has not paid me to write this article, is not a client and has not requested a business pitch from me.

Stay in touch,

Connect with me on the following networks:
FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn


To ensure that you receive all new updates to this blog, insert your e-mail address in the box in the top-right corner. Your e-mail will remain private and will not be shared with any third parties.

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