Ellipse Technologies relates human story behind medical device

The medical device company and Paul Werth Associates drew attention to a magnetic rod implant used to treat early onset scoliosis.

Client: Ellipse Technologies (Irvine, CA)
Agency: Paul Werth Associates (Chicago)
Campaign: Straight Talk: MAGEC for Early-Onset Scoliosis
Duration: April 16 - May 8, 2013
Budget: about $22,000

Ellipse Technologies' MAGnetic Expansion Control (MAGEC) System is a remote control-adjustable magnetic rod implant that's been used to treat early-onset scoliosis, a potentially fatal condition that affects about 300 children worldwide, outside the US since 2010.

On April 16 the FDA made a Compassionate Use ruling for the device to be implanted in two US patients. Surgeons at Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego performed the procedures May 7.

Ellipse hired Paul Werth Associates to help promote the news.

“Getting FDA approval on anything is valuable to publicize - even outside of the US - and we wanted to start to position ourselves for what we hope is pending FDA approval,” says Ellipse Technologies' president and CEO Ed Roschak.

The agency partnered with Rady Children's Hospital to get the word out.

“We both benefitted from our mutual strength to garner the most publicity for the device and the potential positive health impact it would have on the two children,” says Ben Metcalf, public information officer at the hospital.

Agency SVP and MD Marita Gomez adds that it was a great human interest story with “all the ingredients” for a great news piece.

Video assets and social media outreach also helped drive awareness.

The agency media trained three lead physicians and the patients' parents – all of whom spoke at a press conference for local media at the hospital on May 8.

National and international general consumer and healthcare outlets, as well as pharma and device industry outlets, were targeted.

A microsite housed consumer and media materials, including b-roll of the actual surgeries and of interviews conducted before the surgeries with the families and physicians.

A smaller video file cut to view like a mini-documentary about the families and the device technology was posted to the hospital's Facebook, Vimeo, and YouTube channels.

Information about the procedures was also posted to the hospital's Facebook page.  

The effort garnered 1,041 placements worldwide in outlets such as San Diego Union-Tribune (front page), Boston Globe, Fox, and Pharmaceutical Technology Times. All but one of San Diego's local TV stations covered the story.

The microsite drew 8,627 unique visitors from 67 countries. Nearly 2,000 also visited Ellipse's corporate website, and 839 downloaded the b-roll.

“It's the biggest impact we've seen for a medical device launch in the last 15 years,” Gomez says of the microsite results.

May 8 to 9, the documentary style video got nearly 400 views, about 200 likes, 19 comments, and 18 shares across all channels. Metcalf says videos on the hospital's Facebook page typically average 50 to 60 likes, 10 comments, and one or two shares.

Ellipse continues to work with the agency to maintain awareness among surgeons and patients' families in the US.

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