InnovativeMeetings By Christopher Durso
Love andOther Drugs
A pharmaceutical product launch goes out of its way to capture the heart of the event: trying to ‘better the lives of the patients.’
ClientsarealwaysencouragingtheinVNTcreative agency to design and produce live events that are “unlike any other that their attendees had experi- enced,” said KristinaMcCoobery, aninVNTpart- ner and executive producer, but they very rarely sign off on anything truly different. “We do get that direction a lot,” McCoobery said, but “some- times they get nervous about pushing the envelope.” But when a large pharmaceutical company
challenged inVNTto create amemorable product launch for anewdrug treatment last spring, it was very clear about what it wanted: an event that would “tap into the emotions of the audience and remind themwhythey where there,”McCoobery said, “which was to better the lives of the patients.” inVNTtook the company at its word, and pro-
forming “a really uplifting opening number.” Halfway through the song, the lighting shifted so that the lead singer was illuminated and the band behind her faded out; as she continued singing, the screen behindher filled withwords, explainingthat the singer herself was a patient living with the dis- ease. McCoobery and her team had hired the woman specifically because of that (and because she “blewthe roof off the place” duringher audi- tion). She got a standing ovationwhenshe finished. Thenit was time for the general session.Oneof
the company’s executives came onstage, McCoobery said, and rather than settingup a pan- el discussion or an in-depth PowerPoint presenta- tion about the new drug treatment, he simply said somethingalongthe lines of,“We’re goingto
“It became very real to everybody, which I think is invaluable.”
posed a program that would take attendees — about 500 members of thecompany’s internal sales force—ona subtlyemotional journey.ToinVNT’s surprise, the company agreed to everything. “They wanted stuff out of the box,”McCoobery said. “I gotta hand it to that team—they went for it.” Right fromthe start, when attendees first filed
into the hotel ballroom for the openingsession, things were different. Instead of being greeted with high-energy music and dramatic lighting, they walked through a maze created by floor-to- ceiling drapes. Projected onto the cloth were images of people living with various states of the medical condition that the drug was designed to treat, accompanied by “a soundscape of overlap- pingvoices” of people whose lives were touched by the disease, including patients, caregivers, and doctors. “In an honest and poignant way,” McCoobery said, “we began withwhy they were there; itwasthe patient. It set a very different tone.” Once everyone was seated, a band began per-
move into the next part of ourmeeting. It’s a little different, butwethink it’s going to open your eyes to something you might not know.” What fol- lowed was a one-woman show, written by a play- wright specifically for the product launch and performed by a New York stage actress, who over the next 15 or 20 minutes played eight differ- ent characters—menand women, youngand old, patients anddoctors, all of themstakeholders inthe cycle of the disease. There were other “creative beats” throughout
the meeting, includinga closingsession that began with a Def Jam poet who “basically took on the personality of the product through the vehicle of a Def Jam poem,” and ended with an invitation for attendees to share what they found most memo- rable about the event. “Some people got very emotional as they talked about their time there,” McCooberysaid,“howthey felt very prepared and attached to the stories they heard. It became very real to everybody, which I think is invaluable.”
ON_THE_WEB: Read more about the power of emotion and other intangible meeting elements in the Convene article “More Than a Feeling,” at http://bit.ly/Convene-feelings.
36 pcma convene March 2012 ILLUSTRATION BY MICK WIGGINS
On Purpose “If people are looking for something differ- ent and out of the box,” said inVNT’s Kristina McCoobery, “the only way it is really going to hit a home run is if it has purpose behind it. That’s what makes it meaningful to the audience. That’s what makes it memorable and ultimately meets the objectives. You can come up with some really crazy ideas, but unless it’s pointed and on brand and on message and purposeful, it doesn’t matter how crazy the idea—in my opinion, it’s not worth the craziness.”
Christopher Durso is executive editor of Convene.
Innovative Meetings is sponsored by the Irving Convention & Visitors Bureau, www.irvingtexas.com.