Sanofi takes to TikTok and Instagram to target millennials and older Gen Z parents for RSV education
What happens when you combine a country music star with a trending health issue and throw in a good measure of TikTok and Instagram?
For Sanofi’s “Knowing RSV” campaign, it’s meant broader awareness for a common virus that many parents don’t know much about. One common misconception, for example, is that respiratory syncytia virus (RSV) only affects infants who are born prematurely or have other health issues. However, 72% of infants hospitalized with RSV are healthy, full-term babies, said Ayanna Santos, head of Sanofi’s RSV franchise in the US.
“The thing about RSV is a physician can’t necessarily predict for any given infant in front of them, which infant is going to be the one to get seriously ill,” she said.
The country music star speaking out as part of the campaign is Jimmie Allen, who along with his wife Alexis Allen, is opening up to the media and online video about their family’s experience when then six-week-old daughter Zara contracted RSV and was hospitalized — and what they didn’t know at the time.
In a video on the “Knowing RSV” website, Allen says, “I had this inner dialogue on repeat: ‘was there something else we could have done?’ But as it turns out, we were not alone. Not even by a long shot.”
The Allen family ambassadorship and several other social media influencer parents on TikTok and Instagram are helping to raise awareness about common misconceptions about RSV, along with the actual facts and symptoms to watch out for. One mom influencer relayed a story to Santos about one of her followers who told her it was thanks to the influencer’s RSV videos that the young mom recognized it in her own son and got him quick medical attention.
As the campaign rolled out, a spike in RSV hospitalizations among children drew even more attention to the issue. The result? Sanofi notched 42 million views on TikTok videos tagged #KnowingRSV, jumping to 81.2 million views through November.
The campaign, which will continue to run through March, includes three websites in English, Spanish and traditional Chinese, digital ads, social media posts on TikTok, Facebook and Snapchat, Santos said.
“We want to get to millennial moms — and future moms — so millennials and older Gen Z, and reach them where they spend their time,” she said, adding that the campaign is “motivating people to learn more, and it’s helping them to better understand and be ready so that if something happens, they know what to do.”
Another aim of the campaign is making sure it reaches parents of color. As Santos pointed out, 50% of mothers in the US are women of color. So Sanofi worked to include diversity among the spokespeople — country singer Allen is Black — and is also reaching out directly to African American, Hispanic, Chinese, Alaskan and Native American audiences.
“We’ve taken additional steps to make sure that the diversity of how we speak to people or show people information around this disease helps pull through the desire to learn more,” she said.
Sanofi and AstraZeneca are co-developing RSV antibody candidate nirsevimab for infants and children up to 24 months. It would be the first single-dose RSV preventative for babies in the US, among a newly crowded field of hopeful RSV players.
Pfizer and GSK are both developing vaccines with the FDA currently reviewing both Pfizer and GSK biologic applications for their respective vaccines to treat older adults. Both of those reviews have decision deadline dates in May. Pfizer is also developing its RSV vaccine for use in pregnant women to protect infants up to six months after birth. Moderna recently reported positive data for its RSV vaccine in older adults and is preparing for FDA submission.
Sanofi and AstraZeneca’s nirsevimab is not a vaccine, but an antibody designed to help infants and children up to 24 months weather their first and second RSV seasonal outbreaks. The FDA accepted the pharma pair’s application for nirsevimab earlier this month, with a projected decision date for the third quarter. Nirsevimab was already granted marketing authorization in the European Union and the UK under accelerated review and the brand name Beyfortus.
Editor’s note: The story was updated to clarify nirsevimab’s accelerated review and brand name in the EU and UK.