THEME / OPPORTUNITY
On February 2017, MSD Romania, one of the most important pharmaceutical companies in our country and the producer of the anti-HPV vaccine, decided to launch an educational campaign on the topic of cervical cancer and other HPV related diseases. While the need for education on this topic was immediate, the subject was highly sensitive due to the one of the biggest immunization campaign failures in our country which was implemented in 2008 by the Health Ministry.
To better understand our context, in September 2016 we partnered with GFK and conducted a nationwide research on the topic of cervical cancer and HPV vaccination which revealed that 86% of Romanian women have heard about cervical cancer, but more than half of them didn`t know that a sexually transmitted virus (HPV) is responsible for cancer. In addition, 7 in 10 women have never been tested for cancer or HPV and 3 in 4 women have never heard about the HPV vaccine.
To address the tremendous need behind cervical cancer without risking controversy and alienation from the major opinion leaders on the topic, the campaign was structured in two phases – raising awareness on cervical cancer and its cause, HPV infection (phase 1), respectively public`s education about anti-HPV vaccination (phase 2).
To start a conversation about the alarming situation in our country, we launched “Protect her wings!” campaign in partnership with the National Health Institute and organized a public event that gathered key decision makers, health journalists, patients, medical specialists and NGOs. Furthermore, on World Immunization Week (April 2017), we organized a PR Stunt: a video-mapping projection on National Military Circle to raise awarness about the importance of vaccination against cervical cancer and we addresed this issue to key policy stakeholders – deputies and senators, as well as NGOs with a role in sexual education and vaccination policies, and created a Letter of commitment that highlighted the need for anti-HPV vaccination. To inform women across the country about the HPV related diseases prevention methods, we organized “Protect her wings” roadshow and explained women how to access the National Cervical Cancer Screening program. Moreover, we launched the first “HPV IQ” test, a digital quiz addressed to women of all ages, and the most advanced HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9), a public health product that protects people against 90 % of cervical cancer cases. Due to our public affairs efforts, in June 2018, 7 NGOs specialized in patients’ rights sent an open letter to the Romanian Government and the Ministry of Health, calling for funds for anti-HPV vaccination in Romania and 16 MPs from all political parties sent public interpellations to the Health Ministry, asking about the future of anti-HPV vaccination.
Over 500 news were broadcasted on national and local TV stations, radio, print and online media in the last 18 months, with a total reach of almost 27 million people, and more than 47.000 unique visitors accessed the campaign website tool (protejeaza-tedehpv.ro). Also, after 18 months since the launch of the campaign, we have improved national health statistics: according to an IMAS study, half of Romanian women were tested in the past 3 years (from only a mere 27% in September 2016) and the awarness on anti-HPV vaccination increased from 25% to almost 61%.
Also, more than 50 authorities’ representatives attended the campaign events and, in July 2018, Sorina Pintea, the Ministry of Health, publicly stated that funds for the anti-HPV vaccination will be allocated at the next budgetary rectification.
Inspired by the frailty of woman during the fight against a “silent” menace that inflicts pain towards women without even experiencing any symptoms, the campaign aimed to empower them to overcome the burden of cervical cancer by using their own weaknesses and transform them into powerful arguments, such as delicacy, femininity and sensibility.
The innovation element was its communication mix, a coherent blend of public communication tactics, digital tools and public affairs activities which transformed a classical public relations architecture campaign into a compelling one.