CAMPAIGNS: Healthcare PR - TransMedia Group is no PR chicken

Client: Viragen (Plantation, FL)

Client: Viragen (Plantation, FL)

Client: Viragen (Plantation, FL)

PR Team: TransMedia Group (Boca Raton, FL)

Campaign: drug development

Time Frame: November 2000 - ongoing

Budget: dollars 150,000

Producing more affordable drugs to fight cancer and other diseases by using the eggs of cloned and genetically modified chickens was the goal of an alliance between Viragen, a small, public biotech company, and Scotland's Roslin Institute, the non-profit organization responsible for cloning Dolly the sheep.

TransMedia Group was hired to publicize Viragen's step onto the world's biotech stage. The firm capitalized on the Roslin Institute's prestige, and played with the age-old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg.


Many firms think the holiday season is a terrible time to try to stir up media attention. Yet despite holiday distractions and competing news of the presidential election, TransMedia went against conventional wisdom and decided to launch a campaign.

'We're contrarians here at TransMedia,' says CEO and chairman Thomas Madden. 'We thought it was a remarkable story to close out the year,' he continues, emphasizing that because many PR agencies avoided campaigns during the holidays, TransMedia had an ideal opening for promoting Viragen.

The company played off the Roslin Institute's reputation as a world leader in animal cloning and billed the development of a genetically altered chicken that could lay cancer-fighting eggs as the sequel to Dolly.

However, one element of the plan was missing, according to Madden. 'We wanted the client and institution to name the chicken,' he says. The chicken has yet to be cloned, so Madden is hoping for a future christening.

The firm also tied the campaign into the presidential election by making sure message points included how the new technology could lead to cost savings in prescription drugs, says Madden.


On December 6, TransMedia held a press conference announcing the new drug-production technology at Edinburgh castle near where the Roslin Institute is based. Gerald Smith, CEO of Viragen, and Dr. Helen Sang, lead scientist of the project, both spoke. The conference was simultaneously cast on Viragen's Web site so shareholders could view the event.

TransMedia wrote the script for a 90-second VNR and retained PR Newswire to produce it. The video highlighted the technology's tie to Dolly and included footage of how genetically altered chickens and eggs are produced, as well as clips from the news conference. This was transmitted to the United States immediately after the conference.

To generate more press in the US, the firm held a cocktail party at the British Consulate-General in New York on December 11. Dr. Sang was on hand to answer questions from the press and the financial community. The caterer provided chicken and egg hors d'oeuvres. 'I was tempted to pose the question of which comes first, the orange chicken or the deviled egg,' says Madden.


Due to a news leak, The Herald, based in Glasgow, Scotland, ran a story about the technology just prior to the press conference. 'This made for a well-attended news conference,' says Madden. Other United Kingdom coverage included The Guardian and the BBC.

The Webcast was viewed by about 1,100 investors, and Viragen's share price nearly doubled because of publicity, says Madden.

And according to PR Newswire, Viragen's was the most viewed VNR in the US during the week of December 13, with 67 stations picking it up in 52 markets nationwide.

Smith has appeared on several financial news programs in the US, including CNBC's Power Lunch, Bloomberg radio and television and CNN's Moneyline.

Madden estimates that 200 newspaper stories ran in the United States due to the news conference and the cocktail party.


TransMedia will continue to promote the development of the drugs and Viragen's future biotech business alliances.

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