In 2017, Merck—in partnership with the cancer advocacy community—launched Your Cancer Game Plan (YCGP), a resource to help cancer patients and caregivers cope with the emotional, nutritional, and communicational challenges when facing cancer. Through it we learned that, when diagnosed with cancer, patients want more than information—they want to connect with others who have walked in their shoes. We also learned that how a patient begins their journey is vitally important to the direction that journey takes. These insights were the basis for “With Love, Me” – a new program presented by YCGP that features a series of heartfelt letters written by caregivers and cancer survivors to their newly diagnosed selves and other caregivers touching upon what they wish they had known when they were first diagnosed/providing care.Leveraging social and digital platforms was key to facilitating meaningful connections within the cancer community.
When it came time to externalize the program, we connected with cancer patients and caregivers and asked, “What advice would you give yourself on the first day of diagnosis?” The result was “With Love, Me”— heartfelt letters from cancer survivors and caregivers to their former selves. Each letter brings a power and intimacy that’s relatable to cancer patients as well as anybody that’s facing a difficult challenge in their life. We collaborated with Washington Square Films and Director, Alison Klayman, to blend live action and illustration, creating emotionally charged video vignettes that reflect the ups and downs of the cancer journey and, ultimately, a love of life that transcends the disease.
We partnered with award-winning journalist and cancer advocate, Katie Couric, who brought instant credibility and name recognition, driving earned media coverage, paid search conversions, social media engagement and website visits. Couric joined Pro Football Hall of Famer and longtime Your Cancer Game Plan spokesperson, Jim Kelly, in the public awareness effort. As part of the program, Kelly wrote his own letter about his battle with head and neck cancer.
Once the letters and videos of the letter readings were produced and shared on the campaign website – WithLoveMe.com – we activated an integrated media strategy, which included earned media amplification, social posts and ads, paid social media and SEO amplification to reach people impacted by cancer. The dual call to action – to encourage users to share their #WithLoveMe experience and visit WithLoveMe.com to hear the stories of the program participants – was included on all social posts to encourage online conversation and drive users to online resources. Content was shared from Merck’s owned channels, those of celebrity spokespeople and partner advocacy groups for additional surround sound. By selecting spokespeople Katie Couric and Jim Kelly – both of whom have large and active social followings and personal cancer stories – we were able to activate whitelisting tools across social platforms to target oncology audiences across tumor types with partner social posts.
After a soft launch in April, we partnered with Katie Couric and the participating patients/caregivers to engage in a national publicity effort, generating significant social and digital results and instant community participation across multiple media platforms/channels.
The campaign exceeded all benchmarks and garnered significant results: