Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Brings Transparency Online

Vertex Pharmaceuticals Brings Transparency Online

Dec 18, 2007

By:George Koroneos

PharmExec Direct Marketing Edition

Vertex Pharmaceuticals, last week, reinvented itself on the World Wide
Web with the relaunch of its corporate site, www.vrtx.com. Not content
to look like most run-of-the-mill pharma sites, Vertex had design firm
Dotglu build a virtual home that allows patients, physicians, and other
visitors to easily peer into the company's pipeline and find out what
drugs are coming down the pike as well as see the faces behind the

"It's a sea of sameness when you look at pharma," Tomas Mendez,
cocreative director at Dotglu told Pharm Exec. "[Other companies] just
show puppies and old people waltzing and say that everything will be OK.
The tag line for Vertex includes the word maybe. It's a lot less
confident, but it gives you goose bumps. There's a humility to it, and
that's about the honesty."

Concept to Creation
Vertex executives never felt the need to have more than a simple online
presence since all drugs developed were in collaboration with other
pharma manufacturers. But with a hepatitis C drug inching towards
completion, the powers that be decided that the company needed to
redefine its presence on the World Wide Web, and it was going to come
out with a site that eschews every concept of a corporate pharmaceutical
Web site.

The site sports a ton of flash, an intuitive navigation system, and an
easy-to-follow description of what the company is working on and how far
along its products are. Although many of the site's individual elements
have been included in other sites, most pharma company sites have a lot
of marketing-oriented material and images on the home page, whereas this
one really favors access to information, putting it in the spot where
you expect promo.

"This is a way of showing who we are, almost separate from having a
product on the market," said Vertex Senior Director of Strategic
Communications Michael Partridge. "This is a good time to introduce the
Vertex brand to people and have that brand positioning grow as we get
closer to market."

The company wanted to push the envelope in terms of how it communicates
through the Web, so it turned to Dotglu for creative direction and
basically let the Web designers have free reign to build the site as
they pleased.

The result is an intuitive site that maps out all navigation using a
timeline chart (designed to look like a sound wave) that runs along the
top of every page. It serves as a navigational tool and guides the user
through the site. Vertex's pipeline stands center stage in the timeline
and jumps to an page that lists all the working products, give the
phases of development, and-if you hover over a point in the
pipeline-displays a pop-up text box that describes what the drug does.

"A lot of companies will bury where their products are in the pipeline,"
Mendez said. "If you are left on the pipeline, there are years ahead of
you and you won't see return on investment for a while and the drug may
tank. Usually, when you are looking around for the inventory of a drug
company, they obfuscate it. And we don't."

Searching through the section about the executive team, visitors will
find multiple images of different team members. As viewers click on
different images, the executive's outfit changes, which is intended to
show the different hats an executive at Vertex wears.

"There's a level of irreverence that completely counters what pharma
does, but it is not irreverence that disrespects the gravity of
pharmaceuticals," Mendez said. "If it's done properly, it won't alienate
anyone and it will seem honest. It will also appeal to different

Mendez shares some advice for other pharma companies looking to overhaul
their Web presence: "Pharma companies need to think of their Web sites
almost as an advertising campaign that really needs a strong point of
view, and not a million mini points of view."

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