Novartis, Ruder Finn debut meningitis effort

Novartis' vaccine and diagnostics unit hired Ruder Finn to launch an unbranded global disease-awareness campaign about meningitis.

NEW YORK: Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics has turned to Ruder Finn to help it launch its first global disease-awareness campaign, which will be unbranded.

The Protecting Our Tomorrows: Portraits of Meningococcal Disease initiative's goal is to raise awareness about meningitis and the impact it has on people around the world, as well as the importance of vaccination.

The effort will primarily target parents, as well as healthcare providers, payers, and policymakers.

The campaign will follow the approval of Bexsero by both the European Commission and Australian regulatory officials. It is the first vaccine against “MenB,” a bacterial infection that can quickly kill, which poses the greatest risk to infants, according to the company.

Media reports have indicated that the success of Bexsero is critical for the future of the Novartis vaccine unit because it was the only division of the company to report an operating loss in the second quarter of 2013. Novartis will disclose its third-quarter results on Tuesday.

The campaign is focused on photos taken by health advocate and photographer Anne Geddes. The images highlight stories of survival and loss from the disease on three continents: Australia, Europe, and North America. The stills will be compiled in an ebook scheduled for release in April 2014.

Novartis believes photographs are a strong way to “transcend cultures and language barriers,” said Albert Liao, senior manager of global product communications at Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics.

The company decided to launch the effort because it felt there was an increased need for awareness.

“The disease in its early phase resembles flu and progressed rapidly,” said Liao. “It is important that parents be vigilant and talk to their physicians.”

Ruder Finn and Novartis are working to promote upcoming photo shoots and media and advocacy events featuring Geddes.

The agency is taking a “pulsed” approach to promoting the campaign, allowing Novartis communicators in various regions to localize the effort for their communities, said Susan Goldstein, MD of global healthcare at Ruder Finn. There will be media outreach for each local photo shoot taking place through the beginning of next year.

On the social media front, Ruder Finn is overseeing outreach for the campaign on Novartis' Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages. A Tumblr site is set to launch in December, Goldstein said.

Ruder Finn also launched Allies Quest, an online educational game that encourages community engagement and proactive treatment for those affected by hemophilia, for client Baxter this month.

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