Although lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., when found early, before it has spread, it is more likely to be curable. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of their lung cancer risk and whether they are eligible for a lung cancer screening. As a result, in 2021, only 5.7% of people who were at high risk for the disease got screened.
A key reason for low screening rates is the stigma associated with lung cancer. Since it is often connected to smoking, smokers often blame themselves for the disease and are reluctant to seek help. Because of this stigma, there is also a lack of adequate education about lung cancer screening and its benefits, especially in historically underserved populations like the Black and Hispanic communities.
Merck is committed to providing patients and caregivers with support that goes beyond medicine by helping to address key challenges in lung cancer, including increasing education around the importance of lung cancer screenings among those at high risk for the disease.
- Improve screening rates among those at high-risk for lung cancer through increasing awareness about the benefits of early-detection
- Destigmatize the lung cancer screening process.
Research and insights
Real Chemistry and Merck conducted a suite of primary and secondary research to understand the barriers to lung cancer screening and how it is discussed online. The research included a robust social analysis of the online lung cancer conversation by both patients and healthcare practitioners, one-on-one interviews with primary care physicians and pulmonologists and focus groups with patients. Additionally, we gleaned insights from discussions with our advocacy partners to further understand attitudes and barriers around lung cancer screening among the broader lung cancer community.
- Enlist diverse, high-profile online influencers with their own unique lung cancer and lung cancer screening stories to resonate with people of color, smokers and veterans.
- Demystify the screening process and reduce the stigma around screening with real life stories that showed the profound life-saving benefits of early detection through screening.
- Educate audiences about their own risk and how to get screened through downloadable resources, an interactive screening eligibility quiz and links to a screening center locator.
Execution and tactics
We partnered with cancer advocacy groups and influencers at high risk for lung cancer to launch an unbranded education campaign, Focus On Your Lungs: A Screening You Don’t Want To Miss.
In November 2022, during Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Merck launched the website FocusOnYourLungs.com, featuring videos relaying the personal stories of three influencers with genuine connections to lung cancer – two models – former smokers -- at high risk for lung cancer and a celebrity chef who lost his brother to lung cancer.
The website features downloadable resources to help patients and caregivers navigate the lung cancer screening process, including a fact sheet about low dose CT scans, doctor discussion guide, myths and facts about screening and an insurance coverage guide. The site also houses an interactive screening eligibility quiz to help people assess whether they are at a high risk of lung cancer a candidate for screening.
How we reached our targets:
- Creative Social Content: Video snippets from our influencer videos/interactive content were developed for relevant social platforms, driving audiences to the campaign website.
- Advocacy Partners and Influencers Boost Reach: Go2 Foundation for Lung Cancer, Lung Cancer Research Foundation and Lung Cancer Foundation of America along with our three influencers shared campaign social content on their channels and participated in launch activities.
- Sponsored Content in High-Impact Media Outlets: Articles and promotional drivers in AARP and Reader’s Digest, featuring an HCP spokesperson and one of our influencer partners, Veronica Webb.
- Earned Media Coverage: Top-tier trade media including FiercePharma, Endpoints News and PRWeek interviewed senior Merck leaders about the campaign.
- Controlled Media in Priority Markets: A national Audio News Release and Satellite Media Tour was conducted in markets with the highest rates of lung cancer, featuring an advocacy representative and one of our influencer partners.
- Paid Support: Paid social/search were the two highest traffic drivers to the campaign website, boosting engagement with campaign content.
Focus on Your Lungs moved thousands to either learn more about their eligibility for screening or prepare to visit a screening center!
- 2.2K+ completed the eligibility screening quiz, a 69% completion rate
- 270 sought a screening center in their area by clicking on the screening center locator
- 446 viewed the influencer videos, with a 38% completion rate
- 543 downloaded campaign resources
- 113 downloads of the Doctor Discussion Guide
- LDCT Fact Sheet and Insurance Coverage Guide were the top downloaded asset
- 493 clicked through to advocacy partner resources
- 41,000 unique visitors to campaign website
Plus, our earned and paid media efforts ensured the campaign information was disseminated broadly and sparked engagement. (results from November and December ’22):
Video for Focus On Your Lungs: A Screening You Don’t Want To Miss
- Social Media:
- 91.5K engagements across Merck and influencer channels drove a CTR of 3.32%, 88% higher than benchmark (0.75%)
- 1.4M+ video views on social media content
- 6.2M impressions across Facebook and Instagram social content
- 25 broadcast media interviews in national and high priority local U.S. markets
- 962 airings of SMT interviews across broadcast TV, radio and online with 40M+ viewers/listeners
- 486 ANR airings across local radio stations in high priority U.S. markets with 48M+ listeners
- Earned Media:
- Coverage in Endpoints News, FiercePharma and PRWeek, with strong message pull-through
- Sponsored Content:
- ~90K views across two sponsored content articles published on AARP.com and ReadersDigest.com, with an additional 16K+ clicks from the sponsored content to campaign website to-date
- Paid Search:
- 9.0% paid search CTR was over 2X greater than industry benchmark (4%)