PR Team: Sandpiper Communications
Campaign: Launch of Persona, a new method of contraception
Timescale: January - September 1996
Cost: pounds 100,000 (launch only)
Persona is a new form of ‘contraception’ that measures female hormone
levels to determine when it’s safe for a woman to have sex without
becoming pregnant. The makers claim it is 95 per cent reliable - the
same as the condom.
Sandpiper has worked with Unipath from the announcement of the product,
through clinical trials when the agency helped recruit triallists, and
on to launch activity culminating in a conference on 30 September this
To position Persona as a revolutionary new choice in mainstream
contraception; to maximise independent endorsement of Persona, and to
generate sales during the first week of availability when there was no
Groundwork to help secure coverage included building up a pool of
Persona triallists in every media region who would be comfortable giving
interviews. Independent family planning experts who had conducted the
trials plus other opinion leaders on family planning were invited to
attend the launch.
Media planning sheets detailing the date of every programme/publication
being targeted were drawn up and updated as members of the Sandpiper
team made contact and arranged follow-ups.
Advance one-to-one briefings were conducted with women’s and medical
magazines to accommodate lead-times, and an exclusive feature embargoed
for 1 October was sold-in to the Daily Mail.
TV stations were sent a VNR a few days before launch so they had time
to cut a story and request further footage. In addition, 2,000 press
packs tailored to medical and non-medical press were sent out.
The Royal Society of Medicine was chosen as an appropriately heavyweight
venue for the launch. Separate interview rooms were provided and
individual interviews conducted throughout the day. Access was also
given to suitable filming areas such as the library. Dedicated phones
and faxes and a messenger service were also laid on.
Before the launch conference began Persona had achieved national
coverage on BBC news, GMTV and radio. BBC TV covered the story on all
its news bulletins from breakfast to 9pm; ITN at lunch time and 5.40pm;
and BBC network radio all day.
All of the nationals ran the story and coverage in the Times and
Telegraph on the early home news pages was particularly good. There was
also extensive coverage in the women’s press and medical journals.
Coverage during launch week totalled 288 items with an accumulated reach
of 115 million. 99.6 per cent of coverage communicated the message that
this was a new choice in contraception, and 86 per cent that it allowed
women to have sex without risk of pregnancy. National TV and press
reached over 30per cent of the total adult population.
An audit conducted by independent research company Capibus showed
awareness among 54 per cent of the core target group. Within three days
of the launch sales of Persona exceeded expectation by over 30 per cent.
A very large scale campaign which deserves praise for its planning and
Sandpiper consultant director, Caroline Page, admits there was ‘great
media interest in contraception which often took the story out of the
health pages’, but believed it was ‘the depth of information provided
and the fact real women had trialled Persona which gave it that strong
human interest angle’ that resulted in such widespread and high profile
Sandpiper has received many compliments from the media about the way the
conference was handled, the timing and the access provided to key
players such as triallists and the FPA.
The internal evaluation against key messages which Sandpiper carried out
was also commendable, both for its simple concept and the discipline it
imposes in looking at results.
The sales success of Persona in the first week when there was no
advertising support provided additional proof of the effectiveness of
This article was first published on Marketing