Age-Related Macular Degeneration (or AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in people over 50, yet 7 out of 10 Americans are unaware of AMD and its devastating effects.  There are currently more than 13 million cases of AMD in the United States, which is more than Cataracts or Glaucoma.  AMD destroys central vision, leaving only peripheral vision intact.   With AMD, as with other age-related eye diseases, early detection through regular eye exams is often the key to successful treatment.

CIBA Vision is “first to market” with photodynamic therapy -- an innovative drug treatment for AMD utilizing a product called Visudyne.  Approved by the FDA in April 1999, Visudyne is on the cutting edge of technology.  It’s administered through injection into the arm then activated using light (a cold laser) to help cease vision loss.  The therapy stops but does not reverse the progress of AMD.  That’s why early detection is critical to effective treatment.  To capitalize on market leadership within an anticipated one year window before competition arrives, CIBA Vision came to Ketchum with a tremendous challenge: (1) raise public awareness for a relatively unknown disease (AMD), (2) build brand recognition and loyalty for Visudyne, all while (3) motivating those 50+ to get regular eye exams.


PHASE ONE: DEFINING THE ISSUE : Ketchum and CIBA Vision compiled research on WHERE AMD is most prevalent throughout the U.S.  In addition, an Omnibus study of Americans 50+ tested AMD awareness levels and frequency of eye exams.  This material would prove critical in creating meaningful PR messaging and targeting PR markets.

PHASE TWO: DEFINING THE AUDIENCE : Half of today’s U.S. population is aged 50+.  Motivating action and making an impact meant narrowing this audience.  Intense research into both the boomer and matures demographic created audience profiles to be cross-referenced by the team.

PHASE THREE: SEGMENTING THE AUDIENCE: Upon analysis of the demographic research, a universal mindset attractive to Visudyne emerged.  The OLDER ACTIVE ADULT crossed age boundaries – those who make health a priority, who are “as young as they feel”, who are opinion leaders within their communities and that take action when informed.   Quality of life emerged as the defining issue for these OPALS (older people with active lifestyles).  

PHASE FOUR: REACHING THE AUDIENCE : The OPAL decision-making pattern emerged:  inform, empower, act.  Successful PR must EMPOWER OPALs to INSPIRE the ACTION of regular eye exams.  Research revealed markets with highest OPAL concentration.  Two key locations emerged:  in-market events around interest areas (health/wellness, arts, etc.) and active adult living communities (affluent semi-retirement homes, golf communities, etc.).

PHASE FIVE:  TESTING EFFECTIVENESS: Building on this finding, STRATEGIC GRASSROOTS MARKETING emerged as the recommended PR outreach mechanism – reaching OPALs where they live with educational programs designed to inspire action (get regular eye exams).  Initial outreach ideas were customized to address both (1) in-market events and (2) the active adult living communities.  Program options were focus group tested with OPALs in geographically diverse cities.  OPAL reactions shaped program elements and secured client approval.


Target Audience:  Older People with Active Lifestyles (OPALs), ages 45-70+, encompassing both the age-group most at risk for AMD -- and the age group that serves as caregiver for current AMD sufferers.

Objective:  Ketchum wanted to raise awareness for AMD and build recognition/loyalty for Visudyne through PR initiatives that pushed regular eye exams with those 50+.  Measurable year-one objective:

  • Educate Consumers through
  • One-to-one grassroots events;
  • One-to-many media relations efforts; and
  • Visudyne-Driven AMD resources (specifically Web and 888#)

Strategy:  A multi-pronged GRASSROOTS MARKETING effort was selected as the PR strategy to achieve these objectives (after research) – with two distinct arms:

ONBOARD effort:  interactive mobile marketing initiative leveraging OPAL in-market event presence

OFFBOARD effort:  speakers’ bureau/education forum leveraging OPAL-specific communities


The OFFBOARD EXPERIENCE:  Focus group feedback led to the development of Visudyne Seeing Eye-to-Eye -- a traveling talk show which visits senior centers and active adult communities in key markets with the goal of educating audiences about AMD and the Visudyne treatment, while providing free AMD eye screenings.  The show is led by a high-energy host who interacts with a local physician and AMD patient to discuss the AMD threat and the importance of regular eye exams.  For consistency, a brief video depicting the effects of AMD and the benefits of early detection is shown.  In conclusion, an audience Q&A session promotes in-depth education.  Take home literature is provided that refers participants to resources available through and 888# hotline.  Each show delivers 30 MINUTES OF EDUCATION to participants.

The ONBOARD EXPERIENCE:  Focus group feedback led to the development of the Visudyne Eye-Q Challenge -- a traveling, interactive game show and educational exhibit designed to promote eye health and maintaining healthy vision.  A 28-foot truck houses an electronic eye-health trivia game that offers participants the chance to “use their eyes to win a prize.”  Game show questions feature a mixture of fun and fact-based learning.  Prizes are offered as incentives to play (including Visudyne cameras and the chance to win a sight seeing tour of the U.S.).  Players and onlookers experience the game together through a JUMBOTRON big screen.  Each game delivers 10 MINUTES OF EDUCATION to participants.  The exhibit also contains two educational eye health information centers that use hologram-style visuals to depict the impact of AMD and other age-related eye diseases.  Looping video (using content created to educate “Eye-to-Eye” audiences) and take home brochures are offered – both promoting the importance of regular eye exams, and the 888# hotline.  

Grassroots Test Run and Launch:  Tour schedules, detailed logistical outlines, trainings and test runs were planned for each program to ensure readiness for full-scale launch.  Launch events established customizable local market media materials to promote grassroots coverage.  For Eye-Q, a stunt launch satellite media tour spawned national news for the exhibit through an OPAL-celebrity spokesperson.

Sustaining Momentum:  After launch, organized ongoing promotional efforts kept both tours top of mind and meeting objectives.


NOTE:  Results measured TO-DATE since official November 2000 launch of ONE YEAR TOUR

Objective:  Educate Consumers through:…One-to-one grassroots events

Seeing Eye-to-Eye:  In first three months ALONE 600+ attended shows, 500+ screened, 30+ screened positive for AMD and are seeking treatment, 1,000+ educational brochures distributed, 95% of participants completing show evaluation forms ranked production as “very good” or “excellent”.  

Eye-Q Challenge: In first three months ALONE 2,225 game participants, 2,476 educational materials distributed, truck’s exterior moving billboard earns 235,500 impressions in first 2,470 miles traveled.

…One-to-many media relations efforts

In first three months ALONE combined grassroots media impressions top 25,700,00 million with 115 power placements to date, including a mix of print, broadcast and Internet-based media coverage.

… Visudyne-driven AMD resources (specifically Web and 888#)
In first three months ALONE Web site’s grassroots marketing landing page receives more than 400 hits!  888# coverage currently in analysis – but operators have e-mailed commenting on volume increase.