EMD Serono’s Guerrilla Program Addresses the Birds and the Bees

Note: The original version of this story referred to the Gonal-f’s parent company as “Merck.” While technically correct, Brandweek has opted to change that reference to “EMD Serono” since there are two companies named Merck, which might create confusion for readers.

EMD Serono is attempting to inject a little lightheartedness into a traumatic subject for some — infertility — with a guerrilla marketing campaign for Gonal-f that plays on the time-honored birds and bees imagery.

The pharma giant worked with Minneapolis agency mono to send a woman and a man dressed, respectively, in bird and bee costumes in Baltimore last month. The couple rode the Metro, strolled along the Harbor Walk and sipped lattes in high-trafficked areas of the city to draw attention to themselves. When curious onlookers approached, the couple was instructed to state that they represent one of eight couples who have difficulty conceiving. The duo also handed out cards that direct consumers to a Web site, increaseyourchances.org, to learn more.

That site, which is also being promoted with a banner campaign, doesn’t have an overt plug for Gonal-f (a drug that helps women produce more eggs), but other links lead to another site called Fertility LifeLines that does. At the moment, there are no plans to expand the marketing program to other cities.

Michael Hart, co-founder of mono, said the marketing push aims to start a conversation about a topic in which there is much misinformation. “We want to start to get at the myths and get [consumers] to talk to their doctors quicker,” he said.

Though guerrilla marketing is unusual in pharma, it’s not unheard of. In 2008, Zyrtec, an over-the-counter brand, ran a campaign in New York that included postings meant to look like homemade signs for a lost pet that read, “Missing: 2 hours. Last seen while waiting for Claritin to start working,” and offered an 800 number to reach Zyrtec.