CAMPAIGNS: Public Awareness - Cancer research finds public help

Client: United Devices (Austin, TX), Intel (Santa Clara, CA), National

Foundation for Cancer Research (Washington, DC), Oxford University (UK)

PR Team: In-house (UD, Intel, and Oxford University), with Logic Media

Group (represents the NFCR) (Nashville, TN)

Campaign: Image building

Time Frame: April, 2001 - ongoing

Budget: Less than $60,000



Helping scientists scour the universe for any signs of life outside the

Milky Way galaxy was the objective of the first high-profile public

relations initiative from software manufacturer United Devices (UD). The

Austin, TX-based company received many accolades for its Search for

Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) at Home project, which allowed

people to donate their idle computer time to the SETI Institute so that

it could analyze radio telescope data for signs of intelligent life. But

UD's second project has a much more earthbound purpose.



One in four people will suffer from some type of cancer in their lives.

For years, researchers have desperately been looking for new ways to

combat the killer disease, but one of the roadblocks that has slowed

down progress in discovering new treatments has been the length of time

that it takes to analyze molecular compounds and how they interact with

proteins.



Studying how these compounds interact helps determine which molecules

have the highest likelihood of being developed into drugs that can

combat cancer.



Strategy



After UD decided that it wanted to offer its services in the fight

against cancer, the company partnered with the National Foundation for

Cancer Research (NFCR) and the chemistry department at Oxford

University, which had expressed interest in using UD's peer-to-peer

software to scan three billion molecular compounds. The only thing still

missing was a company to sponsor the research project. UD approached

Intel, which wanted to raise the awareness level of peer-to-peer

software, and become involved in the search for new cancer

treatments.



Once all of the components had fallen into place, the four groups worked

on ways to get as many people as possible to download the cancer project

screen saver (which, when running, calculates data while the user is

away from - and not using - his or her computer). Intel and UD also

hoped to build goodwill sentiment for their companies, as well as raise

brand awareness.



Tactics



The four groups held a press conference on April 3, where Craig Barrett,

CEO of Intel, along with representatives of Oxford University and the

NFCR, unveiled the project to the public. Reporters from ABC News, CNN,

CNBC, the San Francisco Chronicle, and others covered the launch.

Representatives from UD, Intel, and the NFCR took to the air to promote

the website where the screen saver can be downloaded. Each group handled

its own PR initiatives, with Oxford University raising awareness in the

UK. The four groups also supported the project on their own company

websites.



Results



"The screensaver has been downloaded on over one million PCs in six

months," claims Andy Prince, director of corporate communications for

UD. It has garnered 400 print articles, television, and radio

appearances for personnel involved in the project, and sales and

business development leads for UD have increased since the company

gained national and international exposure. Originally, the research was

thought to take at least a year, but now UD predicts that the first

stage will be completed much sooner.



Future



The project is ongoing. Media interest is tapering off for now, but

Prince believes that in January-February 2002, the group will be ready

to share scientific results with the public, and discuss the next step

for helping discover new drugs that may be used to treat cancer.



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