Serono is the world’s third largest biotechnology company, developing, manufacturing and marketing a number of pharmaceutical products. In particular, Serono’s drug Rebif is sold in the very competitive Multiple Sclerosis (MS) market where a number of companies aggressively market their own products to both the medical profession and patients.
Rebif was the last drug to reach the MS market place, allowing the other products to achieve a degree of brand loyalty before Rebif became available. If Rebif was to become a success and establish itself as the leading MS treatment, it needed to clearly demonstrate in clinical trials it’s superiority to the market leader. Serono needed to be bold enough to conduct this make or break head to head comparison, and CPR Worldwide together with the Serono PR team needed to effectively implement a marketing communications program at the time that these results became available.
The Challenge
The communications challenge was heightened by a lack of time. Just seven weeks from the company knowing the positive nature of the EVIDENCE study results to the first credible platform to communicate these results to key audiences. The World Congress of Neurology, held in London in June 2001, and attracting more than 3,000 international neurologists, patient organisations and interested media was to provide the platform.
Matters were further complicated by the fact that the results were embargoed by the congress organisers until the last day of the congress – a Friday when many congress delegates and media traditionally plan to leave the congress and return home. The challenge from Serono to CPR Worldwide was clear – how to persuade 1,000 neurologists to stay to hear the convincing study results on a Friday in June, and to effectively communicate the positive results to the world’s business, financial, medical and consumer media.
The Campaign
CPR Worldwide needed to come up with something really different to persuade the 1,000 neurologists to stay in town, and the solution was a real first. Through careful negotiations by CPR Worldwide involving their government affairs team, Serono were to become the first ever company to host a private corporate event at Her Majesty’s Tower of London, incorporating an exclusive viewing of the Crown Jewels. Two separate media events were also to take place on the same day – one for business & financial media, and the second for medical & consumer media.
June 22 2001 was the day when Rebif became the jewel in the Serono crown. More than 250 people were involved in making this day a day to remember for Serono and elevating the Rebif brand in the minds of both the medical profession, and ultimately Multiple Sclerosis patients.
June 22 – ‘The Day of EVIDENCE’
07.00   The Chief Executive Officer of Serono, Ernesto Bertarelli, starts a round of media interviews covering major business, financial, and newswire outlets talking of the importance of Rebif for MS patients and to Serono’s business success
10.00   Thirty two medical & consumer journalists attend an MS media workshop including a panel of international opinion leaders and Rebif patients talking about the success of the drug and the positive impact on their lives
14.00: The lead investigator of the EVIDENCE study presents the results at the World Congress of Neurology late breaking information session to congress delegates, followed by a targeted media briefing of the data attended by forty international media and involving an in depth Q&A session.
15.30: One thousand neurologists, specially invited by the Serono market companies assemble at the World Congress of Neurology held on the west side of London at the Earls Court Exhibition centre
16.00: Neurologists board four specially chartered boats for the journey up the river Thames to the Tower of London
17.00: Neurologists attend a Serono satellite symposium on the EVIDENCE study results, held in a specially constructed structure in the moat of the Tower of London
19.00: Private tour of the crown jewels followed by drinks, dinner and entertainment to further strengthen the relationship between Serono and their key customers
Serono share price increased significantly on the day of the results presentations
Ernesto Bertarelli interviews appeared on CNN, Bloomberg, Reuters, and Dow Jones
Wall Street Journal Europe and The Financial Times both carried articles on the EVIDENCE study results and Serono
Rebif supportive articles appeared in more than twenty medical publications from six different countries
Prescriptions of Rebif increased by twice the previous rate for the quarter following the World Congress of Neurology
By the end of 2001, Rebif is now established as the market leader in every region that it is available to MS patients
The EVIDENCE campaign is viewed by Serono as the most successful in the companies history
“The EVIDENCE study campaign for Serono required a blend of communications and organisational brilliance. The satellite symposium and social events at the Tower of London were a real first, and together with a well planned and targeted media campaign, firmly established Rebif as the number one MS treatment in the minds of the world’s media, medical profession and patients” Ronen Tamir, Global Product Manager, Serono International