CANNES: Pfizer, the pharma giant, managed to meaningfully shift consumer perceptions of its corporate brand through an advertising campaign that aimed to give the company a more human face.

Dana Gandsman, Senior Director/Reputation Communications at the New York-based organisation, discussed this subject at the 2017 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity

And the "Driven to Discover the Cure" campaign, she reported, yielded a 47% improvement in perceptions of the firm by putting Pfizer's scientists at the heart of its messaging.

"This campaign had to be about Pfizer and our colleagues, so we wanted to make sure we had the faces of real scientists featured in our campaign," she said. (For more details, read WARC's exclusive report: Pfizer boosts its reputation with corporate brand building.)

Spearheaded by a TV spot entitled "Before It Became a Medicine", this effort included "mini-documentaries" telling the stories of why Pfizer scientists chose their profession, social-media activations, and display ads.

"We were looking for a human truth, we needed to strike an emotional chord, and speak to people's hearts and minds. Because with reputation, you gain it in drops and lose it in gallons," Gandsman said.

"We captured the science and the emotion which is what our research told us was important to do."

Evidence supporting this strategy came from insights gleaned during research. "When you get in a focus group with the average consumer, 90% of people in the room are going to say they don't like pharma," said Gandsman.

In fact, Pfizer learned, some of the words most associated with the pharmaceutical category are "avarice", "dishonest", "profits before patients" and "scandal".

"When you ask those same people, 'Name one thing you can say that's positive about our industry', they'll always go to science," Gandsman added.

"That was a really good insight for us, and it became the platform of our campaign, which we called 'Driven to Discover the Cure', because we wanted to make sure that we told the stories of our science and our scientists, and really put a human face on our company."

Data sourced from WARC