It is hard to believe there is a brand left in America that hasn't yet sponsored a YouTube contest, much less an entire category. But according to Google, a recently completed contest from Excedrin represented the first time a pharma company had thrown its hat into the increasingly crowded field.
Launched in September, the Excedrin Express Gels $15K Speed Challenge asked users to send in videos of themselves performing "an amazing feat of speed." The idea was to focus attention on the speed with which the Express Gels work: Excedrin claims they begin to cure a headache within 15 minutes.
The contest generated 251 user-generated videos, and the winning entry -- a jumpy two-minute video of a man hang gliding -- was announced on Thursday. The winner will receive $15,000.
Highly regulated pharma companies have been reluctant to embrace such user-generated efforts because of their unpredictable nature, said Neha Parekh, head of healthcare marketing at Google. But the Excedrin contest shows that even highly regulated companies can safely engage the YouTube audience.
"There is a lot of hesitation on the prescription side to engage, though we are seeing companies thinking about ways to do that," she said. Excedrin Express Gels are available over the counter, but much of Excedrin's portfolio consists of prescription medications.
Parekh said there is evidence that the YouTube community is actively looking for more interaction with healthcare companies, and that those who stay away may be missing an opportunity.
"If you just search around YouTube, you see a lot of videos with people giving medical advice or talking about how they take their medication," she said. "People don't get a lot of time with their doctors these days, so consumers are very interested in watching long-form health videos" to fill that gap.
Parekh said that Excedrin monitored all uploaded user videos and had control over which ones were displayed online. The winning video was chosen by user votes, but only after several rounds of voting that narrowed the entries to down to semi-finalists and finalists, a strategy that ensured repeated engagement with consumers.
Excedrin also ran display ads against other healthcare videos on YouTube to drive users to the contest.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014