Client: MSD Romania

Project: Protect her wings campaign

Context & objectives

Cervical cancer is, in Romania, both an unaddressed burden as well as a “taboo” subject: in 2017, 2 out of 3 women were not getting tested against cervical cancer and 3 out 4 had never heard of the anti-HPV vaccine, the primary prevention method against the disease. These dire numbers contributed to a critical context: the HPV virus kills one Romanian woman every 4 hours and is the leading cause of cancer deaths in all Romanian women.

Lack of proper communication campaigns as well as the biggest vaccination campaign failure caused this current context: 2008, when Romania was a pioneer when it comes to anti-HPV vaccination (the virus that causes 99% of cervical cancers), refusal to vaccinate and mistrust from both parents and doctors caused the most catastrophic immunization campaign.
In this dramatic context, 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. We build a 2 years educational campaign that changed the statistics of a nation and improved significantly the number of women that get tested against cervical cancer, a national health problem in Romania.

Strategy

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).

Furthermore, the campaign`s objectives were:

  • 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).

Furthermore, the campaign`s objectives were:

  • Communication objectives: raise awareness on the connection between HPV and cervical cancer by putting this issue on the public and stakeholders’ agendas and inform and educate public about anti-HPV vaccination; increase both primary (vaccination) and secondary prevention (screening).
  • Policy objectives: generate decision making and change for funding of an anti-HPV vaccination program by targeting all key stakeholders (national, regional, policy decision makers) and create a cohesive and coherent strategy, aiming to implement anti-HPV vaccination in Romania.
  • Instead of focusing on mortality, we decided to celebrate women femininity and apparent frailty: even though the topic of discussion was a serious cause of concern, our entire campaign concept focused on creating a unitary and positive call-to-action. Instead of scaring away our audiences, we decided that the campaign key messages and visuals should focus on inviting women, mothers, doctors and other KOLs to plan ahead and protect their own femininity.

 

Implementation

Inspired by the frailty of woman during the fight against a “silent” menace that inflicts pain, the campaign aimed to empower women to overcome the burden of cervical cancer by using their own weaknesses and transform them into powerful arguments, such as delicacy, femininity and sensibility.

Step by step, we`ve established a national conversation about the burden of cervical cancer and its prevention methods by implementing the following activities: we organized the first public event on cervical cancer, that raised the interest of a wide range of stakeholders, including the Ministry of Health, and we made one-to-one briefings with key health journalists about this disease, its prevention methods and anti-HPV vaccination in order for them to write well documented articles about these topics. Moreover, on World Immunization Week, we organized a spectacular PR stunt – a video-mapping projection on National Military Circle, a landmark building in Bucharest, an action meant to remind Romanian women the fundamental role of vaccination against cervical cancer. Afterwards, the campaign went national, as the „Protect her wings!” roadshow reached the most important 9 cities in Romania Cluj Napoca, Tg. Mureș, Timișoara, Oradea, Iași, Bacău, Constanța, Pitești and Craiova. Within this roadshow, we managed to establish direct communication with the campaign target group – close to 15.000 direct interactions with women of all ages, whom were instructed on how to prevent cervical cancer and where they can have a free Pap test. In addition, we organized events dedicated to local public authorities and media, disseminating relevant local information meant to be shared: number of women diagnosed with cervical cancer in each city, number of women getting a PAP test etc.

As our focus was also increasing HPV vaccination awareness, in March 2018, we launched the most advanced HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9) in Romania, a public health product that protects against 90 % of cervical cancer cases. In order to create awareness around it and the topic of HPV vaccination, we created the first “HPV IQ” test, a digital quiz addressed to women of all ages, aiming at increasing their awareness on the need for immunization against cervical cancer. We invited key influential bloggers on health & parenting related topics (Paula Rusu, Oana Botezatu, Vasi Radulescu, Alina Serea) to promote this test on their blogs, while also launching conversations in social media about the need to vaccinate.

Meanwhile, we intensified our PA communication efforts by discussing with key policy stakeholders: deputies and senators, as well as NGOs with a role in sexual education and vaccination policies. As a result, 16 MPs from all political parties sent public interpellations to the Health Minister, asking about the future of anti-HPV vaccination. Some MPs organized public debates with members from their political parties, other realized call-to-action videos and talked to media about this unaddressed issue. In June 2018, 7 NGOs specialized in patients’ rights sent an open letter to the Romanian Government and Health Minister, calling for funds for anti-HPV vaccination in Romania.

Results

Within the campaign, we made a huge impact on women across the country – during the “Protect her wings!” roadshow, we talked to 15.000 women and explained how to access the National Cervical Cancer Screening Program and take free Pap tests. Media joined our awarness efforts – over 500 news were broadcasted on national and local TV stations, radio, print and online media during the campaign, with a total reach of almost 27 million people.

We also managed to change the Romanian women perception and behaviour on cervical cancer and anti-HPV vaccination by improving a national health statistic: in May 2018, an IMAS study revealed that half of the Romanian women have been tested in the past 3 years (from only a mere 27% in September 2016) and awareness on anti-HPV vaccination have increased from 25% to almost 61%, registering an increase of almost 36 percentage.

In addition to that, we obtained open public commitment from key stakeholders: for the first time in 10 years, a political consensus was established on the issue of “cervical cancer, a matter of national health problem”, with members of the most important political parties signing a letter of commitment in which  they showed their public support for the importance of developing a coherent and complete vaccination program against HPV related diseases.