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Special Project

Special Project
From the 10th Annual Shorty Awards

Giving Your Poop a Voice: The New Language of Constipation

Finalist in Health & Fitness, Emojis, Health, Fitness & Medical


Pooping is normal. Everyone does it. So, isn't it weird how just reading the word can make you squirm with discomfort or giggle like a child?

Yet, not being able to poop is no laughing matter. In fact, it's downright miserable.

Welcome to the world of millions of Americans affected by chronic idiopathic constipation, or CIC.

The constipation category has been, well, stuck in its ways for a generation. Dominated by companies all communicating in the same, traditional ways, there wasn't much, eh, movement in the category. Marketing focused on disease state education, yet lacked guidance on how patients could manage uncomfortable conversations about their condition.

People with CIC often found themselves cycling through ineffective medications—often for several years. They also lacked a comfortable or consistent way to talk about their symptoms. Some even resorted to taking photos of their poop help their doctors understand their experience.

Enter Synergy, a small, one-drug start-up with a new view of managing CIC and a desire to shake up a stuck category. With the "Confront Constipation" campaign, Synergy sought a way to enable more productive conversations between patients, physicians and others about their CIC that could lead to better health outcomes.

Specifically, our campaign goals included the following:

— Facilitate and destigmatize conversation about CIC

— Equip patients to have more productive conversations about their treatment goals

— Drive awareness of Synergy as a new entrant in the constipation market

Strategy and Execution

Our research showed that people with CIC were ready to loosen up about their constipation and alternative treatment options, but didn't have the language to comfortably have that conversation.

— It takes a lot for patients to hit a breaking point when suffering from CIC. The confusion between occasional constipation and this chronic disorder has led many to suffer for 5+ years before seeking help.1 Conversations are difficult, with many feeling embarrassed and often dismissed.1 To the extent that suffers become so fed up with their bathroom-centered lives that many resort to sharing pictures of their stools with their healthcare provider to dramatize the problem.1

— Culturally, consumers have shifted the way they speak, from verbal to visual to convey highly emotional and even taboo topics. Squatty Potty and Poopourri were successfully using humor to make the emotional topic of poop more approachable.

— Synergy's challenger status shaped the thinking, giving them permission to differentiate in tone and creative approach allowing them to earn attention.

Inspired by the Bristol Stool Scale (a clinical diagnostic tool to classify bowel movement types), we created a "language of poop" using 14 emojis reflecting both the physical and emotional impact of CIC. Launched in April 2017, Confront Constipation featured a free-to-download app on the Apple and Google Play stores, supported by an integrated earned, social and paid media strategy to drive traffic to the app and "Confront Constipation" disease awareness website.

To drive traffic to the emoji keyboard app, we implemented an integrated earned, social and paid media strategy aimed at a broad, consumer audience. To support those patients looking for additional information, we developed the microsite featuring information on the GI process and a downloadable discussion guide to foster a more productive conversation with their HCP.

Making a splash across a broad media audience was important to kick off initial interest around the campaign. We developed and delivered toilet-shaped press kits to media with digital campaign assets and other "swag" featuring the Poop Troop characters.

To not only drive, but also maintain downloads of the app, it was imperative to implement a social content calendar and paid promotion plan. We developed social media content for the @synergypharma Twitter page and executed a 60-day paid promotion plan across Facebook, Twitter and Google/Apple search engines. While initially split evenly across both social channels and each search engine, weekly evaluations of paid performance prompted us to re-allocate spend to Facebook and Apple, respectively (given lower activity across the Twitter and Google search platforms).

Three weeks following the campaign launch, Synergy capitalized on a planned onsite presence at Digestive Disease Week (DDW) in Chicago to share the campaign assets with a secondary audience—HCPs. While onsite, visitors to the Confront Constipation "pop-up" booth were prompted to text "POOP" to an opt-in text message service that sent a link to download the app.


The unique approach resonated with media, who embraced Synergy's unorthodox approach both within the CIC category and more broadly, the pharma industry. Here's what the campaign accomplished:

Facilitated and destigmatized conversation about CIC: In the 60 days following launch, the app was downloaded more than 92,000+ times, and was the eighth-most downloaded health app on the Apple store in the first week of its launch.2 Sixty days post-launch, downloads built at a rate of 1,500 downloads/day.2 During the annual DDW meeting one physician said, "I can't wait to show this app to my patients;" meanwhile, Synergy sales reps shared feedback from gastroenterologists who applauded the company's use of humor and thanked them "for thinking outside of the box and taking a risk."

Equipped patients to have more productive conversations about their treatment goals: The website saw more than 7,100 visits over the 60-day period. Additionally, more than 100 HCPs opted-in to receive a link to download the app following onsite activities at DDW. The campaign also resulted in more than 525 unique social media posts.

Drive awareness of Synergy as a new entrant in the constipation market: 33 outlets, including Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Mashable, highlighted the success of using humor and the cultural relevance of emojis to discuss a GI disorder, resulting in more than 310 million impressions. Coverage resulted in 95% key-message pull-through, and nearly half of coverage mentioned the website link or hashtag (> 40% benchmark).


Video for Giving Your Poop a Voice: The New Language of Constipation

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Salutem (A Daniel J. Edelman Company), Synergy Pharmaceuticals Inc.


Entry Credits