Bristol-Myers taps rock to send HIV message

The pharmaceutical company is using a viral approach to launch a socially responsible Internet campaign geared toward young Canadians.

One Life, an Internet video campaign launched by Montreal-based Bristol-Myers Squibb Canada (BMS) in conjunction with Toronto-based Universal Music Canada as well as various AIDS service organizations, medical clinics and physicians, is aimed at encouraging sexually active young Canadians to get tested for HIV.

‘We were looking for an innovative campaign to sensitize people to the need of protecting themselves and their partners,’ Marc Osborne, director of public affairs and government relations, BMS Canada, tells MiC.

The campaign is being executed by Bleublancrouge’s pharmaceutical arm, BBRx, with media relations handled by Toronto-based Cohn and Wolfe.

Housed at, the video features bigger-than-life band U2 and soul singer Mary J. Blige’s song ‘One,’ and was developed to hit the hard-to-reach young adult demo with a direct message to be spread by word-of-mouth. ‘We aim to create a viral effect with the help of our partners and through the use of web-linked media, networking sites, forums and blogs to drive visits to the site,’ Osborne explains.

BBRx has put up posters in clinics and run print executions in various magazines to drive people to the site, and will have street teams out at events such as last weekend’s Gay Pride Parade in Montreal, handing out postcards plugging The video campaign is exclusive to Canada, but a clip from it has found its way onto YouTube – an indication that the viral campaign is working.

To further enhance the word-of-mouth nature of the campaign, those who log on to the website are invited to send a personalized message to their friends to show that they care, and BMS is taking that aspect and building on it.

‘To reinforce the community aspect of the campaign and as incentive to spur the viral effect, Bristol-Myers Squibb pledges to donate $1 towards HIV/AIDS-related programs every time a personalized message is sent out,’ says Osborne, who notes that the goal is 100,000 messages.

The site also offers a search tool enabling users to find local testing facilities, as well as links to partnering organizations and HIV information, which people will have access to until the campaign concludes on Aug. 1, 2009.