To Brand or Unbrand Influencer Campaigns for Pharma?

To Brand or Unbrand Influencer Campaigns for Pharma?

What is an unbranded campaign?

Do you have horrible allergies? Recurring sinus infections? Irritable bowel syndrome? Sure, you’ll head to your doctor but you’ll also google around and look for information – it’s natural – so you’re better informed when you talk to your MD.

Pharmaceutical companies employ unbranded campaigns to inform the public about a specific condition. It’s like a PSA: a public service announcement for healthcare. The idea is to arm you with facts as well as to build goodwill toward the pharma or drug brand. And they are exactly what you’d think: unbranded. So there’s no prominent mention of the drug brand and no call to action on the unbranded content. But unbranded doesn’t mean there are no regulations. In fact, there are some additional rules to worry about. 

Are unbranded campaigns easier to manage?

In some ways, yes, others, no. Unbranded campaigns are nearly as difficult and risky to manage as branded. So why use them at all? Well for one, approvals from legal and committees are generally much faster. And executives are more likely to approve unbranded campaigns, especially with influencers, because of perceived risk avoidance. Unbranded campaigns have a long tail, too. You can leave up the unbranded properties almost indefinitely, updating them as new information is published. The gift that keeps on giving.

They are faster to get approved through legal and medical committee because you avoid the tightly-dictated Dos and Don’ts of branded campaigns. But it’s not all a cakewalk: you still need to use FDA-approved language and monitor public comments for adverse effect reporting. And unbranded campaigns carry some regulations not found in branded campaigns: “temporal proximity” and “suggestive content”, for two.

The former means how visually “close” the sponsoring pharma’s name or brand’s logo appears on the unbranded content web page or app as well as how many clicks away the brand’s content can be accessed. The latter is more qualitative: how closely reminiscent is the look and feel of the unbranded content to that of the pharma brand’s? Colors, fonts, styling all contribute. This is all esoteric so if you need some guidance, feel free to reach out to us.

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“You Don’t Want to Talk About Poop?”

Some people don’t mind talking about their bowel movements (I’m talking to you, Dad), but turns out most people hesitate. Allergan chose a comic to be their spokesperson for their Toilet Talk campaign, aimed at making people aware of gastrointestinal issues. It features a poop emoji for a logo and a quick quiz.

Remember the two big rules for unbranded campaigns? Temporal proximity and suggestive content. The name “Allergan” is only displayed on the footer, and in grayscale. The logo is not hyperlinked but there is a linked “About Allergan”, which was an aggressive move on unbranded content.

For the suggestive content guideline, I think Allergan did a perfect job of keeping the look and feel different.

What will be in the new guidance?

But the FDA, or more precisely, the Office for Prescription Drug Promotion, which issues “guidance” for brands and agencies, is currently updating their formal guidance for unbranded campaigns. So there’s no current guidance, but you can certainly rely on past direction for your campaigns now.

What do we expect to see in the new guidance? Specific to influencers, we’ll probably see more definite rules on disclosure for #ad or #sponsored, similar to what the FTC issued recently, which states that it needs to be “above the fold” in an Instagram post. No more burying the tag in a comment or at the end of the post. This shouldn’t be an issue for any professional or semi-professional influencer and only a problem for programmatic platforms. But a lack of thorough content review and submission for programmatic takes that out of the question for any regulated brand.

But most important will be temporal proximity. We should see more definite rules on how many clicks or links to the brand from the unbranded page or post. And I suspect any branding whatsoever on the unbranded content will have to be unlinked. This would require Allergan to not use a linked “About Allergan” on any unbranded content.

To unbrand or brand?

Unbranded campaigns do carry a few extra regulations than branded campaigns but typically approve faster. In addition, the long tail of an unbranded campaign actually provides an educational service to patients so it will build goodwill with patients. However, consumers will yell if they perceive they’re being tricked by “big pharma”, which already has an image problem. So predicted changes regarding temporal proximity should only help with brand image and be embraced by pharmaceutical companies. Starting with an unbranded campaign then following it up with a branded campaign is a sound strategy; consumers are already aware of the information available and poised to accept an influencer’s recommendation for a medication.

About MATTR: MATTR, leaders in influencer campaigns for highly regulated industries, is the only full-service influencer marketing provider with detailed audience insights from PersonaMesh™. We go beyond demographics into psychographics such as values and interests so that your influencer campaigns align with your campaign targets.

How To Do Influencer Marketing When Your Product’s Not Sexy

How To Do Influencer Marketing When Your Product’s Not Sexy

Close your eyes and picture an influencer. What comes to mind? Maybe they are at a luxury hotel, maybe they are sporting the latest FashionNova, or their favorite high end alcohol products. Influencer marketing helps make a lot of products seem more glamorous than they actually might be. But how do you get those glamorous influencer shots when your brand is not…well, sexy?

Everyone is Doing It

We’re talking about toilet paper, tampons, diapers, etc. We all need them, but no one wants to talk about them. For a lot of brands, influencer marketing can seem exclusive, and only effective for certain industries like travel or beauty. But, we are now seeing more and more brands embrace influencer marketing and prove they work for even the most regulated industries such as pharma and finance. We’ve even run campaigns for marijuana dispensaries and sports betting apps. The difference is that those targets are niche, and luckily for you, your target is the opposite of niche. Your target is nearly everyone, everywhere. The problem is your product, although a necessity, may not be the most appealing to talk about.

Why Should You?

For most brands the biggest advantage to influencer marketing is the incredible engagement and inevitable awareness that comes from leveraging influencers. But, for your product, you can kill two birds with one stone. Not only will you gain that engagement and reach for your brand, you are also helping kill the stigma around talking about your brand by leveraging people that are professionals at making things look desirable. Social media also gives you the opportunity to start over with new audiences. Influencer marketing is the number one way to reach Gen Z so show them a new way to see your products. Afterall, they are a generation that has become vocal about a lot of things that used to not be talked about.

When you are a brand that is used by a huge population, chances are there are influencers out there already using you or more than willing to give your product a try. And, there are many ways to go about influencer marketing when you don’t have the most attractive products to share. If your product has little differentiation, a nudge from an influencer might be all it takes to gain a lifetime customer.


Remember when Lisa Rinna became the spokeswoman for New Depend® Silhouette for Women? Although the jokes were inevitable, the conversation around the partnership became about female empowerment and totally changed the conversation about women being more open about these kind of products. As time goes on, more and more millennials and Gen Zers are becoming unafraid to talk about most anything. One huge benefit to influencers vs celebrities is that they are unfiltered. This word can scare a lot of brands away, but because of this, stigmas around many different topics are disappearing and we are able to more openly have conversations about subjects that were not discussed much in the past.

Influencers can make your product more exciting. For example, take the Ballinger family, who by the way have over 1 million subscribers on YouTube, and their partnership with Scott toilet paper. They found a way to promote this product in a fun way through their channel by incorporating it into a family road trip. You can even find more subtle and natural ways to incorporate your products into influencer content, even if it’s not a completely dedicated post, like what ob tampons did with this “What’s In My Bag” YouTube video by content creator Allana Davison


The bottom line is that people need these things; actually most EVERYONE needs these things. They are necessities of life and not only can influencers get them in front of your target, they can help make them look cool! Or, at least, help normalize the conversation around them. Influencer marketing, especially with the rise of Gen Z consumers, gives you the opportunity to rebrand your product to be cool–and who better to help you do that by using those that are experts in the art of making things cool: influencers.

About MATTR: MATTR, leaders in influencer campaigns for highly regulated industries, is the only full-service influencer marketing provider with detailed audience insights from PersonaMesh™. We go beyond demographics into psychographics such as values and interests so that your influencer campaigns align with your campaign targets.

6 Super Fun Dad Influencers

6 Super Fun Dad Influencers

Dad influencers are all the rage now. And it’s no wonder: hard data show more men making buying decisions that women used to make. And for household and baby, these are millennial men–men who, as with millennial women, ignore social or digital ads like you’d ghost that creeper who got your number.

But it’s not just around the house, of course. Millennial men are buying grooming products like expensive serums or $300 jeans. Promoting niche or luxury mens products? Social influencers should encompass 60-75% of your marketing budget. It’s that effective.

Of course the challenge is finding dads whose audience persona matches your brand or campaign goals. We’ve curated two dads per category for you and, as usual, reach out to us if you need more help!

Household & Baby

Millennial dads are homebodies, especially if they work from home. They clean, take care of the baby and do the shopping. Their engagement rates, as a whole, equal or exceed those of moms. At least for the time being, seeing a dad with a baby can be more surprising and thus generate high engagement and interest even when the featured brand is not terribly exciting.

David Clark (@davidavidavid)

Was your dad ever this cool? Where to start with David? He’s fun, charismatic, and can do a 360 Flip, for crying out loud! Also, husband to one of the biggest mommy bloggers on the platform! Add a nearly 8% engagement rate on over 140k followers and you’ll be doing your own 360 Flip!

Devale Ellis (@iamdevale)

Brooklyn-based Devale posts candid, everyday type posts on Instagram with a large percentage of those being hilarious and relatable videos. This husband and father of three has garnered a strong audience on both his Instagram and his family YouTube channel. It’s not hard to see why his audience absolutely loves him; engagement rates hover between 15-20% on posts – netting you over 100,000 targeted audience members hearing about your brand.

Men’s Fashion / Style

Dads everywhere are shucking their dad jeans and getting into more fashionable clothes.

Andrew Slyfox (@andrewslyfox)

Andrew is a filmmaker and devoted dad. He also epitomizes California cool in his style. Even though he’s a photographer you’ll find plenty of candids without heavy post editing. He’s proof that dads are just as good as moms when it comes to having that aesthetically pleasing Instagram page. His persona is fun, young, and uplifting and his audience rewards him with an impressive 15%+ engagement rate on over 120k followers.

Duane McLaughlin (@duanemclaughlin)

Duane has gorgeous, easy photography, highlighting his hip, urban east coast style. He also balances that great mix of family, fashion, and his overall lifestyle. His 40k+ audience rewards his stunning family photos with a strong 3% engagement, while the solo shots garner about 1.5%. His aesthetic is consistent even with varying subjects.

Foodie Dads

Nick (@dad_beets)

Saveur blog awards winner for best Instagram, Nick’s posts will absolutely blow you away. His food is hearty and fresh and his photographs carry a consistent look and feel that his audience appreciates. His engagement rates vary widely, however, so do your homework on when to ask him to post as well as ensuring his audience metrics match your brand. Do yourself a favor and don’t check this account out while you’re hungry.

Mike Chau (@mikejchau)

Mike is much more of a foodie dad than a cooking dad, hitting a dizzying number of hotspots all around Manhattan. Fair warning though: don’t look over his feed while you’re hungry – especially if you have a sweet tooth. You see a sprinkling of adorable babies alongside ice cream cones with sprinkles. Or donuts with sprinkles. His engagement rate hovers between 1% and 2% on over 100k audience members tightly focused in New York.

Dads Will Grow Your Customer Base

Dads are great at puns but their impact on your brand is no joke. When it comes to persuading dads to consider your brand, whether food, fashion, or in the home, they are increasingly valuable and currently underserved. Don’t expect to activate them for discounted rates, however – we’re finding them as expensive or more so than moms.

Your Influencer Marketing Summer Bucket List

Your Influencer Marketing Summer Bucket List

Summer can be a slow season for many marketers. But slower seasons also allow for you to try new things and experiment with your marketing plans. By now you have probably dipped your toes into influencer marketing and noticed all that it is capable of helping you achieve. But, like most things to do with social media, influencer marketing is always changing and adding new aspects into the mix. It’s hard to know which type of influencer or social channel or execution will be best for your brand. Use this time to try different areas of influencer marketing and find your sweet spot!

Here are some bucket list ideas to try this summer for your influencer marketing campaigns:

Try Going Live

Live videos are nothing new on Instagram– many influencers do them all the time. In fact, celebrities like John Mayer even use them as a platform to host their own shows, bringing in millions of views every time. But the word “live” can scare a lot of marketers away when it comes to a campaign. We already know the human error aspect involved in influencer marketing and having content all go on live without being corrected can be a terrifying thought. The important thing is to be prepared, find influencers you trust, and keep the content simple and direct. Live videos can be an innovative way for influencers to connect their audience with  your brand in a more personal and interactive way.

Go All In On Stories

It is becoming more and more apparent how impactful Instagram Stories are for engagement during campaigns. Some influencers get triple the views on a story than on their actual post. The swipe up feature can draw more clicks than a link in a bio and stories allow for more video content which can be beneficial to many brands. Find influencers who thrive through their Instagram stories and test a campaign only through those stories. You may find your engagement and conversion rates go up, all while saving you money since influencers tend to charge less for a story than an in-feed post.

Go Nano

Nano-influencers seem to be all the rage right now. We’ve discussed in the past the pros and cons of all size of influencers. So, depending on your brand and how specific your target market is, nano-influencers can be very beneficial if you are relying on strong conversion rates. Try running a small campaign with some influencers in the 1k-10k reach range. Influencers at this size will sometimes post in exchange for some product, so there might not be much to lose and in return you might find your own perfect influencer campaign. Of course the big “con” for nanos is content quality and control, so if you do choose to trial a campaign and have important brand guidelines you may be better of with the semi-pros in the mid-level range.

Explore Beyond Instagram and YouTube

We know Instagram and YouTube are dominating in the influencer marketing game. The way these social platforms are set up makes for compelling campaigns and easy-to-track engagement and conversion rates, but it might not hurt to explore other areas. TikTok, in the past several months, has seen a huge growth in numbers and could be the perfect platform if your target is in the under 18 age range. There are also streaming platforms, like Twitch, which bring in insane amount of viewers and incredibly influential users. The popularity of podcasts has even exploded in the past year causing many marketers to turn there for influencers. We aren’t saying to completely ditch Instagram and YouTube, but be aware of the impact of other social channels, especially if your audience is Gen Z.

Go Long Term

Summer could be the perfect time to begin a long term campaign that’ll last throughout the remainder of the year or even into 2020. Maybe you are unsure of which way to go in influencer marketing–this is your chance to test the waters with different types of posts or a variety of influencers to see what works and what doesn’t. You also have the chance to start building long term relationships with influencers with the goal of them becoming brand ambassadors. This season is a great opportunity to experiment so that when the busy months and holidays come along, you’ll have set your campaign up for true success.

Influencer marketing is always changing and social media is always adding new and exciting things to the mix. Although it can be overwhelming at times always trying to keep up with every new update, there are always new things to embrace, including some of the ideas on this summer bucket list. One of the most valuable things about influencer marketing is the ability to test a variety of options through mini campaigns to find what brings the most success for your brand. We hope you can cross off one or more of these from your summer bucket list and come out of the season with a new way to ensure a successful influencer campaign.

About MATTR: MATTR, leaders in influencer campaigns for highly regulated industries, is the only full-service influencer marketing provider with detailed audience insights from PersonaMesh™. We go beyond demographics into psychographics such as values and interests so that your influencer campaigns align with your campaign targets.

Can I Run an Influencer Campaign for a Drug with a Boxed Warning?

Can I Run an Influencer Campaign for a Drug with a Boxed Warning?

I had a thirty minute phone call with a director at the FDA in April, 2019 about influencer campaigns for drugs with boxed warnings. She was so helpful! Read on for the insight she provided:

By now we know that pharmaceutical companies have pressed forward beyond experimenting with influencer marketing. Their stocks are soaring, people are living longer, and millennials, who trust influencers way more than they trust you-the-brand-or-agency, are now concerned with their own little ones’ health. It’s the perfect recipe for an addictive marketing drug–with no side effects.

However, you’re also surely aware of, and concerned with, the regulations. There have been only a few FDA wrist-slaps but to a pharma’s legal, the whole idea of giving a contractor on YouTube or Instagram control over the messaging screws up their faces as if they’ve just swallowed the worst tasting cough syrup imaginable. And the legal hassles have one profound side effect: long timelines. Plan on 3-4x the time of a usual campaign. But it’s all worth it; the ROIs for influencer marketing are between $6.50 and $12.00 for every dollar spent.

But what about drugs with boxed label warnings? Can you possibly run an influencer campaign with so many strict regulations? The short answer is yes, but you do need to be aware of some critically important factors. And lawyers don’t like short answers anyway.

Winter Is Coming…But Not For A While

In general, regulatory for pharma influencer campaigns is tough: influencer captions are obligated to use FDA-approved language, the post needs pre-approval from a committee at the pharma, contraindications listed, “fair balance” of benefits and risks, adverse events monitoring in comments…the list goes on a bit further. It is all do-able (we are in the middle of a couple campaigns now) though, so don’t be discouraged! So let’s get to boxed warnings. And, like drugs without boxed warnings, there is a way to legally run an influencer campaign that will satisfy the lawyers who, when presented with the strategy, look like they’ve seen Wight Walkers coming over the wall.

The Wight Walkers – Game of Thrones, HBO

Boxed warnings, also called, “black box” warnings, are mandatory for products that have severe or life-threatening side effects. Incidentally, they’re called, “boxed” warnings because the warning must be embedded in a box:

Besides Celebrex, you’ll see boxed warnings on antidepressants, contraceptives, anticoagulants, and more. This is serious stuff, which is why anyone’s first inclination when talking about an influencer campaign to the Gods of Marketing is, “Not today.”


What About Unbranded Campaigns?

Unbranded campaigns are those in which the brand and its benefits are not revealed. Think of it as awareness information for a condition, a kind of public service announcement. Typically there will be a link to drug’s site or a coupon download a few steps removed from the site. From the FDA’s perspective, the hairy part is just how many clicks away the product is revealed. This first guidance is called, “temporal proximity”, in the parlance of a federal agency and it makes sense because agency rules aside, consumers hate to be tricked. This goes for boxed and non-boxed warning drugs, by the way.

“agency rules aside, consumers hate to be tricked.”

The second no-no is what’s called, “suggestive content”. This is more qualitative than temporal proximity, and addresses those unbranded media which “look” like the drug in typeface, colors, or imagery. Think of an unbranded campaign for erectile dysfunction that featured a gorgeous, smiling couple on a bed with 1800 thread count sheets under a night dome of stars. You get the idea.

Time to consult the FDA guidance, right?

Wrong. The FDA pulled the earlier guidance on unbranded campaigns as they revise their direction in light of new media like social. And no, they legally cannot disclose when the guidance will be coming (I did ask), but you can get a notification when it’s live by providing your email to their list on And yet again, “suggestive content” applies to drugs with and without boxed warnings.

Absolutely, Positively, “No”

There is only one absolute with boxed warning drugs: reminder promotions. You may not use the drug’s name on any “reminder promotion” unless the boxed warning is present, but at that point you’d want all the other content to go with the promotion anyway, so it wouldn’t be a reminder ad. Think of a reminder promotion as a giveaway squishy stress ball at a conference, with the drug’s name printed on it. Companies have tried to get around this for boxed warning drugs by putting the giveaway in a cellophane package, on which the boxed warning is printed. But that’s too much of a grey area for the FDA director I spoke with. Influencer posts could be used as reminder promotion but it doesn’t seem likely.

So drugs with boxed warnings have all the strict requirements for promotions as those without and only one important outlyer (reminder promotions). But, as with a non-boxed warning drug, there must be “fair balance” in both the imagery and text of a promotion: as many risks as benefits must be present. You can bet that the boxed warning will have to be prominent in an influencer post, but we’ll hopefully learn more when the guidance is published by the FDA.

About MATTR: MATTR, leaders in influencer campaigns for highly regulated industries, is the only full-service influencer marketing provider with detailed audience insights from PersonaMesh™. We go beyond demographics into psychographics such as values and interests so that your influencer campaigns align with your campaign targets.