Zyrtec: Get Outside After You Play This Game

Zyrtec wants to encourage people to go outdoors and enjoy the fresh air by, paradoxically, getting them to play an online game. The intriguing but hopefully not too addictive Furtec from JWT is a virtual pet walk for allergy sufferers. The Facebook app lets people upload a photo of a pet and then explore a digital park. At the end, they’re reminded that with Zyrtec allergy medicine, they can do this for real, minus the sneezes.

Zyrtec, the allergy product category leader, has two ongoing strategic goals, according to Eric Weisberg, executive creative director for JWT New York, which created the Facebook app. It needs to keep current users from falling back to store-branded versions of the drug, and it wants to attract new customers. Furtec is part of that second strategy. Weisberg says, “How do you get new people to switch from competitive brands? We need to come up with new ways to shake people out of their complacency, and not just do the traditional claim messaging that we’re better.” The answer, he believes, is so-called brand experiences that feature interactivity and personalization.

“When you can really make it about you, it makes the experience more important to the consumer,” says Colleen Sellers, group brand director, allergy, for McNeil Consumer Healthcare. The app not only lets users upload photos, they can also add the name of their cat or dog, which shows up in places around the park. Sellers says that level of personalization took engineers more than a year to produce.

Zyrtec, which has only been available over-the-counter for six years, has created a brand persona that’s witty and real, according to Sellers. “In general, we target women in the 35- to 54-year-old range, for example, female casual gamers.” At the same time, Zyrtec has found that these more experiential campaigns also do well with younger folks. “As you’re in your 20s and moving around, you are likely to get allergies. This campaign can target new allergy sufferers.”

Furtec builds on Zyrtec’s ongoing “Love the Air” campaign and follows the 2011 Zyrtec Parks Unleashed, an interactive YouTube game with prizes, also created by JWT New York.

At that time, Zyrtec didn’t yet have a Facebook page, but the brand and JWT learned that there’s quite a social component to allergies. Sufferers love to commiserate, and they increasingly do it on social media. Says Weisberg, “People are talking about allergies, and we learned we could amplify that with Parks Unleashed. People would share the experience on Facebook, but we didn’t give them the tools at the time to make it a two-way conversation. When we built this app on Facebook, we wanted to build shareability at the core.”

Production and post were handled by HAUS, and J3 took care of media. The Furtec app will be promoted with Facebook media, as well as pre-rolls to online video. The campaign rolls out with a soft launch to iron out any kinks this week.

While Zyrtec has had great success running banners on endemic sites like WebMD and weather-related properties where consumers are looking for allergy-fighting tips, the brand has found better performance for its experiential branding efforts on lifestyle and gaming sites. Says Weisberg, “That’s what people are in the mood for; they’re in entertainment mode, not utility mode.”

Campaign metrics focus on sharing, according to Sellers, as well as how many people play the game and how often. There’s also a link to a coupon to help track sales lift.

An interesting subplot to the Furtec story, Weisberg says, is that some 50 percent of households with pets also are home to at least one person allergic to them. “That makes the brand a really powerful thing for some people. Taking that medicine is often an enabler to having pets.”

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