Although 1.4 million Americans are affected by inflammatory bowel disease - the collective term for Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis - it isn't an easy thing to get people to talk about.
ConvaTec, a Bristol-Myers Squibb company that manufactures ostomy and wound care products, set out with Weber Shandwick to organize a campaign that would make the subject easier to discuss.
ConvaTec embraced WS' strategy of taking into account more real-life stories, hoping to capitalize on the idea that if real people spoke about their experiences, they could make the subject more friendly for the mainstream, says Nimisha Savani, ConvaTec director of corporate marketing and professional relations. The strategy was to make people feel that overcoming the disease was worthy of an award.
The team launched the "Great Comebacks" program, essentially creating an award for regular people coming back from Crohn's disease. "Our vision was to take an award and turn it into a community of support," says Ian Leggat, WS account supervisor. "We thought this was a way to turn ordinary people into advocates." The campaign also benefited from high-profile participants, including Tony Snow, White House press secretary.
Mainstream media coverage was especially rewarding for the effort, Savani says, as it isn't an easily discussed topic. "It is emotionally de-habilitating if people feel they have to hide what's happening to them," she explains. The campaign got a huge boost in applicants over its course, Savani notes, as people became more willing to talk about the disease.
ConvaTec now is taking the message global, with WS aiding the effort. The team will also continue to work on the Great Comebacks program nationally.
PR team: ConvaTec (Skillman, NJ) and Weber Shandwick (New York)
Campaign: Great Comebacks
Duration: March 2006 to March 2007
Budget: Less than $500,000