Sanofi’s use of Instagram Influencers – A new frontier for pharma OTC ads

Last evening, Sanofi took a rather unusual route while promoting it’s OTC product, Combiflam Plus – Instagram Influencers!

While it originally started as a medicine that was targeted towards middle-age segments like the traditional mom and dad – it looks like they are targeting a much younger segment now – working millennials.

Each of the three chosen influencers seem to follow pretty much a similar script describing their lifestyle, how they get headaches or body aches because of their hectic schedule – a common problem shared by many. The video has been shot using a mobile camera to add some amount of personal touch and authenticity. And then all three influencers show an up-close packshot of the medicine.

With a combined reach of over 9 million followers, we have posts by:

  1. Mithila Palkar – An Instagram Influencer and actor who talks about how her long shooting schedule often means less sleep and skipped meals – which gives her terrible headaches that disturbs her focus. I do appreciate that she does point out that her lifestyle isn’t healthy and that she needs to look after her health – but she also talks about how Combiflam Plus gives her that much-needed relief.

2. Rannvijay Singh – An Indian actor and reality TV host – shares his passion for taking long bike journeys and talks about how it is often accompanied by body aches and pains. He then goes on to talk about how the product has helped him.

3. Arjun Bijlani – An Indian Television Actor – who speaks about the long shoots that leave him with a bad body ache. And then goes to say that he always carries Combiflam Plus.

I really like how they covered their bases in terms of who recommended Combiflam Plus to them. Arjun Bijlani says that he was recommended Combiflam Plus by a friend, Mithila says that her mom recommended it and Rannvijay says that a doctor recommended it.

Lastly, all three posts go on to say that Combiflam Plus is their #StrongPainKaStrongJawab and also call upon people to share their experiences.

Sanofi also has activated some micro-influencers who have anywhere between 2k – 30k followers with different areas of interest – mothers, travel bloggers, fitness bloggers, fashion bloggers, food bloggers – all describing how their lifestyle often brings its share of aches & pains, and how Combiflam Plus gives them that much-needed relief.

The idea of posting this in phases – with a couple of key big influencers first, followed by multiple activations from micro-influencers after 24-48 hours is absolutely the right way to go about it. Great execution.

While I’m thrilled to see the use of influencers by a pharma company, there are some areas which could have been managed a bit better:

  • The videos of the big influencers are a bit awkward and come across as more of an advertisement rather than a natural influencer product recommendation. These influencers usually post stuff about their shoots, their travel and at times friends and family. So, a medicine recommendation seems a bit out of place. It could have been done a little more subtly – for eg: what I always carry during my shoots, or what’s always in my bag during a long bike trip.
  • The audience might get the wrong message about managing their health by popping pills. A little caveat about taking pain killers only when you desperately need them could have been reinforced since many people are raising concerns about choosing to pop pills to deal with health problems.
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Although OTC rules do not make it mandatory for ads to display side-effects, it might be a bit of a risk to not mention the risks of over-usage in the post copy or comment, especially since such posts are made to look like a personal recommendation rather than an ad. Instagram Influencers don’t just sell a product, they sell a lifestyle and therefore need to be careful about what they recommend.

Kudos to Sanofi for ushering in the era of influencers in pharma. I am very curious to see how this does. I really hope this trend picks up, in a responsible way.

What do you think about Sanofi’s posts? We would love to hear your opinion.

9 thoughts on “Sanofi’s use of Instagram Influencers – A new frontier for pharma OTC ads”

  1. As a digital effort to push the product it is a valid tactic on a media which is much in use by the target group. Sanofi as a responsible marketer / manufacturer should add the line that these OTC product gives temporary relief and customers should refer to product literature / consult a medical practitioner if in doubt before consuming the same. And could add a chat function to the micro-site / helpline number / email id

    1. I agree, the tactic is brilliant and I’m happy to see a pharma company using social media influencers for their promotion. The points you mentioned could be used as a disclaimer on social media posts along with their website link for more details on the product.

    1. If the cosmetic product is an OTC one, then yes of course! However, if these products can be purchased with a doctor’s prescription only, then I’m afraid using influencers to talk about the brand/product will not be legal, since advertising of prescription medicines is not allowed in India.

      That said, you can have a paid partnership with online influencers to talk about things like skincare or haircare tips/ routine without naming any of your products. If you have a website with some patient support content, then the influencer can even recommend your content.

  2. While the influencer campaign is very well done, the messaging could have been much more responsible. OTC product’s messaging on social media has to be all the more responsible as it can make an impact on consumer’s health.

    1. I completely agree.
      Influencers portray a “true” lifestyle of themselves on their handles. When they share their travel or workout or art content, the audience usually doesn’t doubt their ability. Which is why when they say they take Combiflam Plus, it is seen as the truth.
      Actors on TV on the other hand, “play/ act out a role” in their movies or TV shows, a role which is not their true self.

      Which is why influencers definitely have a stronger impact on their audience. And influencer marketing has to be more responsible.

  3. Please use Responsible Marketing as this is not a cosmetic but a Schedule H drug though OTC shouldnt be promoted on social media so aggressively as it can also be misused and will be harmful for patients of GI kidney & Liver issues.

  4. Please use Responsible Marketing as this is not a cosmetic but a Schedule H drug though OTC shouldnt be promoted on social media so aggressively as it can also be misused and will be harmful for patients of GI kidney & Liver issues.

  5. Schedule H drug have lot of risk and I totally understand OTC product but here is lack of Responsible Marketing as marketeers we should put patients first as the side effects of this brand is dangerous.

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