CAMPAIGNS: Web launch




Client: (Seattle), a division of Soma Corp.

PR Team: Publicis Dialog (Seattle)

Campaign: Launch of first Internet pharmacy

Time Frame: January 1999 to present

Budget: N/A

As Internet companies race to launch online, they face the challenge of

building a brand image very quickly with limited funding. A campaign

undertaken by, the world’s first full-service Internet

pharmacy, is a prime example of how PR can help startups gain an edge in

this competitive industry.

Strategy asked Publicis Dialog to help position the site, which went

live on January 15, as the most reputable drugstore on the Internet.

The agency was also charged with assisting in making analysts

aware of its existence, shielding it from unfair criticism by the

pharmaceutical industry, securing support from the medical community and

generating widespread media coverage.

The defined target audience comprised several consumer ’subsets,’

including women ages 25 to 54, senior citizens, business travelers and

college students.

’This project posed a true challenge,’ says Randy Hurlow, account


’People everywhere were already talking about and other

potential competitors,’ despite the fact that none of them had opened

for business. Additionally, the proliferation of ’unethical’ sites - for

instance, one whose associated physicians were willing to write

prescriptions for Viagra without examining patients - had become a focal

point of media coverage and consumer conversation.


Publicis Dialog first wrote a white paper entitled ’An Approach to

Identifying and Regulating the Internet Pharmacy.’ Intended to align

Soma. com with ethical providers of pharmaceuticals, the 14-page

document defined the phrase ’Internet pharmacy,’ discussed the various

issues associated with purchasing prescriptions online and offered

recommendations on how best to protect individuals buying prescribed

drugs in cyberspace while still providing them with the convenience and

privacy they seek from e-retailers.

The white paper and related information packets were sent to various

national medical and pharmacy associations, including the American

Medical Association, as well as to elected officials and members of

government healthcare and technology committees. Materials informed

recipients of’s unfavorable view of ’unethical’ sites.

Media kits with a similar message and details pertaining to how

would differ from other Internet pharmacies were sent to editors of

women’s health, women’s shelter and senior citizen-oriented

publications, as well as to TV and newspaper reporters covering the

health beat. Kit components were customized to suit each category; for

example, extra material on the benefits to be reaped by senior citizens

using was sent to publications geared toward older adults.

Copies of a VNR produced by the agency and disseminated twice via

satellite on launch day were offered to all editors and writers as part

of the press materials. A separate video for potential investors

emphasized the unique one-on-one patient/pharmacist consultations

offered by using ’patients’ in different situations to

emphasize the site’s universal appeal.

Additionally, Publicis Dialog held telephone briefings for analysts at

major firms like Gartner Group, Jupiter and Aberdeen.

Two two-day media tours, one for medical trade publications and one for

women’s consumer publications, kicked off about six weeks post-launch.

Brenda Corbett, Soma’s vice president of pharmacy operations, attended

the medical trade tour to enhance overall credibility. Also, a Soma

pharmacist accompanied the Publicis Dialog team on the consumer

publication tour. ’We made sure to choose a female to better relate to

the (attendees) and the audience,’ Hurlow notes.


Collectively, the campaign generated 101 million impressions (1,200


Print coverage appeared in 457 publications, including The New York

Times, Investor’s Business Daily, The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles

Times, Forbes and BusinessWeek.

The VNR got 106 placements, with national pickup by CNN Financial News

and CNBC. Radio placements totaled 400 in 50 states; TV placements

exclusive of the VNR, 236 in 42 states.

Following the launch, visitors to the site increased an average of 170%

every two weeks. Inquiries about acquisition proved numerous, ultimately

leading to Soma’s purchase by CVS, the nation’s largest pharmacy



To raise the client’s profile another few notches, Publicis Dialog is

currently working toward establishing a role for Soma as a corporate

sponsor of associations that serve the chronically ill. It is also

attempting to reach out to medical professionals and consumers through

Soma’s presence at community events with a healthcare focus.

Julie Ritzer Ross


Krispy Kreme opens out West

Client: Great Circle Family Foods (Southern California franchisee of

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts)

PR Team: Hill & Knowlton (Los Angeles)

Campaign: Krispy Kreme Doughnuts - La Habra, CA store launch Time Frame:

December 1998 to February 1999

Budget: N/A

During its 64-year history, Krispy Kreme doughnuts has achieved a solid,

cult-like following throughout the South and Northeast. But the North

Carolina company was relatively unknown in the far West market and faced

a difficult situation when planning to open its first store in Southern

California late last year.

Besides the company’s lack of strong identity or brand awareness in that

market, the planned store location, in La Habra, presented another


Located on the border of Orange and Los Angeles counties, La Habra is

about 30 miles from the heart of Los Angeles and the majority of the

news media.

Nevertheless, Great Circle Family Foods, the Krispy Kreme Southern

California franchisee, planned to rely solely on PR for the launch.


Hill & Knowlton developed an aggressive media strategy to introduce the

brand to the market and promote the store opening. The team also hoped

to expand the product’s cult-like following into the region while

promoting its history and product appeal.


With careful consideration of Krispy Kreme’s desire to drive foot

traffic to the store on opening day, H&K created a four-pronged media

approach, targeting local broadcast, print, trade media and community


To generate excitement for the new store, the firm approached morning

show talent and producers via press kit and pitch letter, offering

doughnut deliveries and on-air spokesperson interviews. The agency

coordinated doughnut deliveries, interviews, promotions, live remotes

and product give-aways for local television and radio shows.

Food, lifestyle and business reporters at key print outlets were

contacted through a ’tag-team’ approach, reaching out to a variety of

media beats with different story angles as the campaign progressed.

Press kits and pitch letters, tailored to each reporter, were

distributed with extensive follow-up to obtain interviews.

H&K also targeted the western bureaus of food and real estate trade

publications to establish Great Circle Family Foods as the Southern

California franchisee for Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Articles and

interviews were arranged via press kit and pitch letter distribution and

telephone follow up.

To ensure a good consumer turnout at the La Habra store opening and to

tap the local community, the team designed a Krispy Kreme ’Ambassador

Program.’ Coupons, promotional items and an announcement signaling the

opening were mailed to nonprofit and community organizations in the La

Habra area. Special emphasis was placed on reaching consumers who are

transplants from the South and who already had a relationship with the

Krispy Kreme brand. That included outreach to alumni associations of

Southern universities, community organizations and direct mail to

community and corporate leaders.


Starting about two weeks before the opening, coverage appeared in the

Orange County Register and The Los Angeles Times, radio interviews on

KROQ-FM and coverage on OCN-TV.

The bulk of the broadcast coverage occurred on the day of the opening

and as a result, the line of people waiting to get in wrapped around the

building. Mentions of the opening aired on nine local radio stations and

five TV stations, including the local ABC, NBC and Fox affiliates, in

addition to an in-studio interview on OCN-TV.

H&K assisted KIIS-FM in organizing a live remote and helicopter landing

at the store on the morning of the opening.

The successful launch of the Krispy Kreme brand resulted in numerous Los

Angeles Times articles, including a front-page story in the Orange

County edition of the paper. Following the opening, the PR firm received

media requests from publications such as Bon Appetit, InStyle, LA

Weekly, Los Angeles Magazine and Orange Coast Magazine. Total media

impressions to date: more than 55 million.

Most important, the successful opening campaign resulted in the La Habra

Krispy Kreme store reaching the number one status in the Krispy Kreme

system within three months.

In addition, the store has sold more than one million doughnuts in its

first six months of operation.


’We are continuing to keep momentum alive with grass roots and celebrity

seeding efforts in between store openings,’ says Bonnie Goodman, a

senior managing director for H&K. ’And that includes sampling of the

product, of course.’

Alvin M. Hattal


Reaching teens at high risk

Client: Illinois Department of Public Health (Springfield, IL)

PR Team: Golin/Harris (Chicago); Hernandez & Garcia (Chicago); Flowers

Communications (Chicago)

Campaign: Respect Your Mind, Protect Your Body

Time Frame: July to September 1998

Budget: dollars 1 million

Ever try to converse with a teenager - about sex? Consider teens’

typical reticence with adults, then compound this hurdle with the

challenge of reaching African-American and Hispanic teens, and you have

some idea of the obstacles facing Golin/Harris when it agreed to help

the Illinois Department of Public Health communicate with teenagers who

are at risk from sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and pregnancy.

Spurred by alarming rates of STDs and pregnancies among teens, the

Illinois health department set two campaign objectives: to educate

youngsters about the dangers of unprotected sex and substance abuse, and

to drive phone calls to the department’s toll-free hotline.

’Our challenge was to create messages that would resonate with this

difficult-to-reach audience,’ says Beth Richman, senior account

executive at G/H.

’Also, African-American, Hispanic and Caucasian teens react differently,

and teens in Chicago don’t approach these issues the same way as teens

in Peoria.’


The agency had only three months to develop the campaign, so it quickly

mounted a four-fold research effort. First, it conducted mall-intercept

interviews with more than 200 teens to elicit reactions to campaign

concepts, themes, messages and techniques.

’We had to develop realistic messages that would capture teens’

attention and still be considered cool,’ Richman notes.

The agency decided to reach the target audience through radio ads, PSAs

and interviews, supplemented by brochures and media coverage. The

materials would depict ’sticky situations’ and suggest ways of dealing

with them.

’Research showed that teens wanted to hear about risky scenarios from

other teens, not hear lectures from adults,’ Richman says. G/H wrote and

produced the radio messages and collateral materials. Flowers

Communications provided insight into reaching black teens; Hernandez &

Garcia guided activities aimed at Hispanic youth.

In the second stage of research, a 33-member teen advisory panel was

asked to evaluate the creative. Next, focus groups representing the

three ethnicities reacted to the brochures and messages. Finally,

campaign materials were tested on more than 100 high-risk adolescents

through 41 state-funded organizations.


The campaign kicked off with a press conference featuring the state

public health director. A press kit helped produce coverage from major

Illinois dailies, as well as ethnic newspapers, broadcast TV and cable


Radio ads and PSAs in English and Spanish, aired on 31 stations in

Chicago and 15 smaller markets. Bilingual brochures were designed to

look like CD liner notes and dealt with sticky situations similar to

those dramatized on the radio. These were distributed through schools,

health centers and teen shelters.


Press coverage was extensive in Chicago and smaller-town newspapers, on

radio, broadcast and cable TV. Univision, the Hispanic channel, ran the

story nationally.

Adolescent calls to the health department hotline increased nearly 50%,

achieving the all-time highest call volume; about 30% referred to the

campaign. Post-campaign testing showed 90% of teens thought the

scenarios depicted were realistic; 69% thought the presentations taught

ways to handle risky situations.


The agency was commissioned to run another three-month campaign in 1999,

including creation of new radio ads and a Web site. G/H will oversee the

site on an ongoing basis.

Alan Rosenthal.

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