- Commended 
Bayer Schering Pharma (BSP) engaged Weber Shandwick (the Agency) in February 2008 to provide public relations (PR) support for the Australian launch of YAZ, a new oral contraceptive (OC) pill.
In compliance with the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct (MACC), YAZ could not be advertised to the general public and PR was engaged as the primary marketing platform.
Considering YAZ’s unique 24/4 formulation, the goal of the PR program was to differentiate YAZ from other contraceptives, and educate consumers and healthcare professionals (HCPs) about its non-contraceptive benefits, including reduced premenstrual symptoms and improved skin condition.
The launch of YAZ greatly exceeded all pre-campaign expectations. The national media campaign targeting consumers and HCPs achieved over 19 million impressions. Key message penetration was extremely strong with 24/4 formulation and YAZ’s non-contraceptive benefits highlighted in over 75 per cent of coverage.
More than 2,400 HCPs were directly engaged through the education program. Post completion of the launch, BSP reported that initial sales doubled expectations and the Australian launch of YAZ showcased internationally within BSP as an example of best practice.
YAZ is a revolutionary new OC, considered the biggest development in the OC market since its launch 50 years ago, and a key competitor to new forms of contraception such as the vaginal ring and implantable rod. The product is a key focus for BSP globally and as one of the first markets to launch, Australia was under intense pressure to deliver outstanding results.
Unlike other OCs available in Australia, which provide 21 hormone pills and seven hormone-free pills, YAZ provides 24 hormone pills and four hormone-free pills (24/4 formulation). The three additional hormone tablets reduce hormone fluctuation, meaning women experience less premenstrual symptoms.
YAZ is indicated for the treatment of moderate acne vulgaris in women seeking oral contraception and for the treatment of symptoms of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) in women who have chosen OCs as their method of birth control. PMDD is a severe form of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) with strict diagnosis criteria.
Under the strictly regulated MACC, YAZ could not be advertised to the general public and PR was engaged as the primary marketing platform. PR played a primary role in overcoming the following key challenges:
· The OC market in Australia is mature, with a high level of competition and stable patient population
· Most OCs are comparable in safety and efficacy in their primary indication (preventing pregnancy)
· Consumers and HCPs perceive non-contraceptive benefits such as improved skin condition as a class effect
· Australian women were only familiar with the 21/7 formulation
· Patient compliance was poor with most women discarding the hormone-free pills in the OC pack
· Patients and HCPs did not understand PMDD – one of YAZ’s key selling properties.
· GPs are time poor and do not see OC script reviews as a priority
· Media perceived the OC as ‘old news’ in the face of newer contraceptive options
Due to the highly competitive nature of the contraceptive market and that women and HCPs were not aware of PMDD, it was important for the Agency to conduct thorough research to ensure campaign strategies and tactics would target the specific audiences appropriately.
As women in the target audience are web-savvy, the Agency chose to conduct an online survey to identify the attitudes of women toward contraception, OCs and the non-contraceptive benefits of YAZ.
To address the potentially niche message of YAZ’s PMDD indication, the Agency conducted extensive medical literature research to define PMDD. Key messages were then drafted, which were in line with the product’s therapy indications and MACC, but could be easily understood by consumers.
Recognising BSPs market leadership position in the OC space, the Agency reviewed past activity conducted by BSP, particularly the launch of Yasmin which engaged a similar target market, to identify key success factors and understand the contraceptive market.
The Agency undertook extensive mapping of advocacy groups, key opinion leaders (KOLs) and publishers to identify relationship-building opportunities.
Consumers: Australian women aged 17-40 years
It was apparent from the online survey conducted by the agency that women in this age group are happy to talk about sex and relationships; however they have specific knowledge gaps around key areas of sexual and reproductive health, which provided both a challenge and an opportunity.
HCPs: GPs and pharmacists
GPs are usually the first point of contact for women seeking an OC prescription. Contraception is not a high priority and many issue a repeat script without any evaluation of new contraceptive options.
Pharmacists are a key contact for consumers purchasing non-hormonal contraception or getting contraceptive scripts filled, and are also important in disseminating information about compliance.
Both consumers and HCPs regard media as a credible way of receiving information so trade, news and consumer media were engaged across radio, TV, magazines, newspapers and online.
Taking into consideration the campaign objectives and key audience insights, a two-phase strategy was developed for the YAZ launch.
The Agency sought to develop solid platforms across a wide variety of mediums to directly reach the target audiences, to firstly educate and address specific knowledge gaps and secondly to ignite a paradigm shift in OC treatment attitudes and behavior.
A variety of traditional and online educational platforms were employed to educate HCPs, whilst various media platforms, including a novel online approach were utilised to reach consumers to educate and stimulate a change in behavior.
Recognising the diversity of the target audiences and the campaign’s challenges, various tactics were undertaken.
1. Advocacy Group and KOL Engagement
Agency engaged Sexual Health and Family Planning Australia (SH&FPA) – the leading Australian sexual health advocacy group – to lend third party support to the program. In addition, new relationships were formed and existing relationships utilised with some of Australia’s foremost sexual health, women’s health and mental health KOLs to act as campaign spokespeople.
2. HCP Education
A partnership was formed with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), to help develop an online education program (rolled out via www.gplearning.com.au), which focussed on a ‘contraception update’ and the availability of YAZ. See Appendix A.1.a.
A secure HCP portal (www.24-4.com.au) was developed to provide prescribing information and consumer medicine information to GPs. See Appendix A.1.b.
An education program was developed with the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia (PSA), targeting pharmacists and pharmacy assistants with educational flip charts, a non-branded in-store poster, stickers and a special sponsored ‘contraception’ issue of InPharmation magazine. See Appendix A.1.c.
All HCP education was implemented strategically in advance of consumer education to ensure HCPs were prepared to manage consumer enquiries.
3. Media Program
An in-depth media program targeting both trade and consumer media was conducted nationally. The launch of YAZ was supported by results from a survey commissioned by SH&FPA and BSP into the impact and understanding of premenstrual symptoms among Australian consumers. See Appendices A.2.a, A.2.b and A.2.c.
Recognising the trend for consumer news health journalists to pick up stories from HCP trade press, the Agency developed a strategic media approach, ensuring trade media engagement was far enough in advance of the launch that HCPs would be prepared for consumer enquiries, but not far enough that it would cannibalise consumer media coverage at the time of launch.
A reader poll was commissioned among popular women’s magazines (Cleo and Cosmopolitan), with the results rolled out to other Australian Consolidated Press (ACP) titles, providing additional advertorial and editorial opportunities. See Appendix A.2.e.
The Agency arranged SH&FPA-hosted education sessions at the two leading publishing houses (ACP and Pacific Magazines), to provide media with information about the launch of YAZ, its unique formulation and premenstrual symptoms. See Appendix A.2.d.
4. Consumer Education
Due to restrictions enforced by the MACC, most consumer education was achieved strategically through HCP education and the media program. The key tactic to engage consumers was the development of a consumer website (www.understandingyou.com.au), which focused on educating women about the menstrual cycle, contraceptive options and premenstrual symptoms. See Appendix 3.1.a.
The website incorporated an online symptoms tracker for women to record their physical and emotional symptoms throughout the menstrual cycle, ultimately driving traffic into the GP to discuss treatment options. See Appendix 3.1.a.
The Agency developed an educational consumer brochure about premenstrual symptoms and contraceptive options, which was distributed via GP and SH&FPA clinics. See Appendix 3.2.a.
By utilising a range of platforms, including online and media, the campaign succeeded in educating GPs and Pharmacists about the launch of YAZ, its unique benefits and the importance of compliance.
The ACP reader poll enabled the Agency to engage directly with 9,000 Australian women, and provided leverage to reach millions of consumers via the media campaign which delivered YAZ’s unique messages.
The novel interactive element of the consumer website encouraged visits and helped to educate and stimulate a change in behaviour.
The projected sales figures reported by BSP demonstrate that the campaign achieved a shift in OC treatment attitudes and behaviour amongst the target audiences was achieved as a result of the campaign.
Taking into consideration the number of media impressions generated by the program, key message penetration, and the level of HCP engagement and post campaign business results, the launch of YAZ was highly successful at securing market leadership and educating consumers and HCPs about the launch.
The program greatly exceeded all expectations set by BSP, doubling the projected sales figures and is currently showcased internationally as an example of best-practice.