Arthritis is an affliction usually associated with older adults.
However, this debilitating condition affects older dogs too. Moreover, while many ailments can be recognized by your average pet owner, arthritis often goes undetected, as pet owners often mistake the symptoms for the drops in energy that come with old age. "Pet owners are the trigger to get dogs diagnosed with arthritis,
says Tom Lindell, VP at Colle & McVoy (C&M).
To answer canines' calls for help (and humans' misunderstanding of them), Pfizer Animal Health developed Rimadyl in 1997. This medical breakthrough was enthusiastically received by the media, veterinarians, and consumers alike. But in the four-plus years since, competing drugs and alternative treatments have cut into Rimadyl's market share. Inasmuch as canine arthritis is still a pressing medical concern, Pfizer wanted to refresh the public's memory about the condition and the Rimadyl brand.
C&M was brought in to devise an approach that would woo the public and media alike. Its plan centered on Doris Roberts, the popular and meddlesome mom from CBS' mega-hit Everybody Loves Raymond, and her 11-year-old black lab Max.
"Max and I are examples of how it's possible to live full, active lives with arthritis,
says Roberts. "I can manage the pain, but Max really suffered. He lost his spirit. Since 1999, he has taken Rimadyl. He was no longer in pain, and it helped return his zest for life."
Combine Max (a living testament to Rimadyl), Roberts (a willing celebrity with knowledge about the subject), and a 32-foot RV set for a tour to four major markets - New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Chicago - and the "Drive Against Pain
was ready to hit the road.
C&M pitched the effort to both national and local morning shows, along with major dailies. The RV provided a distinguishable backdrop for interviews where Roberts could speak about the issue and her appreciation for what Rimadyl did for Max, and what it can do for all dogs who suffer from arthritis.
Roberts and Max also visited animal shelters in each city, specifically ones with on-site veterinary clinics. Rimadyl is a prescription drug, so giving samples to vets was instrumental.
The shelter visits also gave Pfizer the chance to talk directly with people considering adopting a dog, particularly an older one. Prospective adopters often select puppies because they fear older dogs are more likely to cause problems and heartache due to age-related illness. C&M felt that expressing Rimadyl's benefits in this setting would give people added confidence to adopt an older dog.
The weeklong campaign found its way onto Good Morning America, Fox & Friends, and other popular morning shows. It also garnered prominent space on Joan Rivers' nationally syndicated radio show. Locally, the Drive Against Pain garnered numerous interviews in all four markets.
Initially, the tour scored 37.7 million impressions while on the road, landing in major local media outlets like the Philadelphia Inquirer, Cleveland Plain Dealer, New York Daily News, and Chicago's WGN-TV. An SMT earned the tour an extra 20.8 million impressions, and added placements in papers like The Dallas Morning News and the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The tour also laid the groundwork for a large-scale consumer ad campaign.
Combined, the efforts helped Rimadyl hit a new sales record in 2001, increasing 11% from the previous year, and rising 16% above projected figures. Market share rose to 74% in 2001, up from 67% in 2000.
The drive's success has spawned similar tours, led by Roberts, in Australia and Latin America. C&M is also looking into ways to include Roberts' emphatic message into other campaigns for Rimadyl and canine arthritis awareness.