The Pharma Report: Zulu Alpha Kilo

Get ready to shake up your category

Too much marketing in the pharma category is boring. Zulu Alpha Kilo wants to change that.

Beyond its top-tier automotive, retail and tech clients, the Toronto agency is known for its work with public-facing health and wellness organizations. Take the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), for example, who engaged Zulu to develop a new brand strategy and launch a public awareness campaign to help end the stigma associated with mental health. CAMH then leaned on Zulu to help fundraise for its Krembil Centre for Neuroinformatics. The agency has also steered national campaigns for ParticipACTION and used its design expertise for a brand launch of the East Toronto Vascular Clinic.

For the branding of the East Toronto Vascular Clinic, Zulu created an eye-catching graphic approach with a stylized depiction of veins, arteries and blood cells. Messaging played off the clinic’s location in the Beaches area of Toronto.

For the branding of the East Toronto Vascular Clinic, Zulu created an eye-catching graphic approach with a stylized depiction of veins, arteries and blood cells. Messaging played off the clinic’s location in the Beaches area of Toronto.

Interestingly, the agency’s pure-play pharmaceutical clients such as Avrio Health get access to the exact same creative and strategic experts. Zulu intentionally chose not to set up its pharma business as a separate silo the way other agencies have. Zulu founder & chief creative officer Zak Mroueh says, “We don’t believe pharma should be relegated to a separate division within the agency. Our pharma clients have access to the same depth of creative and strategic talent as all our clients.”

What the agency has done is hire subject-matter experts in account service and strategy who can navigate the regulation-heavy environment. There is some serious pharma know-how in the ranks. With over 20 years of experience, group strategy director Heather Segal has worked with many of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies in both Canada and the U.S. She works alongside group strategy director Maxine Thomas, who helped steer many groundbreaking campaigns for Pfizer while at Taxi. Mroueh himself knows a thing or two about creativity within pharma’s regulatory confines. Working with Thomas at Taxi, he led the creative team overseeing the game-changing early Viagra work.

Agency president Mike Sutton says, “We treat pharma as passionately as we would any other marketing discipline. In many agencies, it is simply seen as a revenue source. For us, we see pharma as an opportunity to break a category wide open through smart strategy and creativity.”

Which is precisely what the agency did when it got the call from Avrio Health for its Betadine launch. With a mix of social, trade and mass advertising strategies, Zulu helped drive Betadine’s growth as an antiseptic gargle in the competitive cough and cold market. Realizing that the world didn’t need another ad about miserable, sniffling people hiding under blankets, the agency leaned into the product’s preventative properties for ear-catching creative.

Out-of-home took a contextual approach by connecting Betadine’s gargling ritual to the settings in which it was placed.

TV focused on people starting to feel a tickle in their throats. While at their jobs, they drop what they’re doing and gargle loudly while co-workers and customers look on in surprise. For social videos, actors were put into similar real-life situations to gargle in grocery stores and on park benches as unknowing consumers looked on with amusement. Trade and digital ads backed the creative with details on efficacy and proven results.

After the campaign launched, Betadine accounted for an unheard of 90% of the category’s growth. It achieved a 27.2% market share and for a time was the category leader, eventually securing the undisputed number two position.

The main competitor’s volume share was reduced from 75% to 49%.

More recently, Senokot began working with the agency on a campaign called “For The #2 In You.” From silver medalists to second-born children, the campaign manifesto humorously celebrates all the number twos in the world. The product is a laxative that hopes to change Canadians’ attitudes towards constipation (currently, of the 71% of the population who say they’ve experienced constipation, only 13% use laxatives).

Zulu works with many health and wellness organizations to change perceptions and behaviours. CAMH’s “Mental health is health” challenged stigma while ParticipACTION’s “better” campaign showed how every aspect of life improves with physical activity.

Zulu works with many health and wellness organizations to change perceptions and behaviours. CAMH’s “Mental health is health” challenged stigma while ParticipACTION’s “better” campaign showed how every aspect of life improves with physical activity.

Zulu’s reputation in the pharmaceutical arena is growing with the Betadine work and calls from potential clients coming with increased frequency. But as with its non-pharma work, Zulu sets its own pace. It prides itself on only partnering with ambitious clients who want to creatively shake up their heavily regulated category.

“For us, there’s no sweeter challenge than trying to innovate within a set of boundaries,” Mroueh says. “Some of the most brilliant ideas are conceived when you’re forced into a framework by regulation or market pressures.”

CONTACT:

Mike Sutton

President

mike@zulualphakilo.com