Video Voices of Authenticity

By December 7, 2009Books

This link will lead you to the NY Times "Voices of" health ethnography on pancreatic cancer.

So many things make this page and this series so powerful. But one factor rises above all others: the people are genuine and authentic, and the pictures just lets that come through.

Pancreatic nytimes

I wrote a few weeks ago about what I considered the very mixed and mixed-up state of oncology brand Websites and what many still lack. Mixing this train of thought with the another I have been contemplating — the power of storytelling –  I realized that the use of video has become a magic button for pharma/biologic companies, like someone said, "If you do video, you'll finally connect with your patients."

But certain examples of this approach once again prove that the best ideas depend upon the best execution. What I see is mostly self-defeating, self-deceiving if you think it works and frankly, poor work from your Agency.

Don't get me wrong — I DO believe in video, ethnographic, documentary-style work about patients and or the journey that it took to create a medicine. Video in pharmaland is really one of the most challenging of all communications to create. But it is also proven to create a situation that a viewer will generally retain 40%-50% greater information retained.

So, while it is true that video of a patient speaking is potentially powerful, like anything in this world, the reality of making it work is daunting. And lately I have seen some examples where a brand, with best of intentions, tried to use patients to embody its message, it was done in such a over-produced way, that it crippled any attempt at credibility from the get-go. . 

Here is a site one of my clients admires greatly. but I know for a fact, that patients found these videos "canned" and phony due to their production. (I do love the layout and am not quite so harsh as what I heard other say, but you gotta listen to the target.)

Now, not everyone can be as authentic as the Centocor/Remicade related documentary that was created a few years back — But as far as I am concerned this still sets the bar high and we should all watch and learn (besides, it was a great way to build their Db.) This documentary is a great guideline for how to do something that is credible, human and engaging.


Also, has very authentic videos of employees; although not patients, the authenticity of these people's voices really makes you want to watch them — and does the hard work I have spoken of before: moving pharma's perception from sales force drug-pushers to credible, caring scientists, which is how the industry once was and should be perceived in the mainstream population.

So much of what I am commenting on here also needs to a grain of salt — at least brands are trying. That is a big evolution from only a year ago. But if you are a client or brand person, really grill your agency — do not fall in love with a great idea and then get cheap about making it, or second-guessing about Regulatory's reaction. If that is the case, use video in the straightforward way: shoot patients and doctors telling their stories and just chop it into chapters for people to browse. Nice and simple and still effective. 

And always, always surround the video with Actions the viewer should take — the one's that you want them to take. Video should never be a passive tool, it is a directive tool, a jumping-off point to other information.

Oh, on last point that could seem heretical: videos can be funny, too. People can laugh at themselves and in the right, honest, context, it comes off as truly human and real.And people will watch. And relate. And remember.

Ever seen a funny cancer video? Go on sometime.