he cardiovascular field of medicine is serious business. And tearing doctors away from known products is not an easy task. But that's the very challenge that plagued The Medicines Co. as it prepared for the 2007 American College of Cardiology (ACC) Annual Meeting in New Orleans.
The Medicines Co., a Parsippany, NJ-based pharmaceutical company, produces the cardiology drug Angiomax, a direct competitor to the older, better-known Heparin medication. So when Mary Ann Avallone, senior manager of global congress operations for The Medicines Co., took over the company's trade show program in 2006, she inherited the challenge of educating physicians about Angiomax and why it's a preferred alternative to Heparin.
After researching The Medicines Co.'s record at ACC, Avallone learned the previous year's booth had drawn little traffic - 200 attendees out of 15,000 - indicating a wasted opportunity to educate physicians about the drug.
"I wanted to create an in-booth program that was fun and educational," Avallone says. "Playfulness wasn't something the company had considered in the past. But if you make your booth interactive and fun, the doctors will stop."
Together with Dayton NJ-based exhibit- and event-marketing firm Impact Unlimited, Avallone devised an in-booth activity modeled on a computer game called "You Don't Know Jack," tweaking the name to reference the company's product, calling it "You Don't Know Max."
Like the original, "YDKM" worked like a game show, with a series of questions that attendees answered by touching a stylus to a screen. The Medicines Co. game featured 65 questions in three categories: product-related trivia, the disease state the product treats, and medical trivia.
To get things going, booth staffers invited attendees to take a seat at one of 10 stations, each with its own screen, and participate in the "You Don't Know Max" challenge. Scanners at each station read the doctors' badges before the game began, linking participants' contact information directly to their correct and incorrect responses and giving Avallone and her team valuable insight into attendees' knowledge of Angiomax.
During the game, which ran every 15 minutes, doctors competed with each other, winning points for each correct answer - and bonus points for responding first. After each round ended, participants received a card redeemable for a USB drive loaded with product information.
But what kept the attendees coming back again and again was a placard in The Medicines Co.'s 40-by-50-foot booth with the names of high scorers posted and updated throughout the four-day show. "They played off doctors' egos," one Sizzle Awards judge said. "If you tell a doctor 'You Don't Know Jack,' it's like throwing down a gauntlet that doctors simply can't refuse."
A total of 885 attendees played "You Don't Know Max" - more than four times as many interactions in the previous year's booth.
According to an entry in James Howell's 1659 book of proverbs, "All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy." But The Medicines Co.'s in-booth activity effectively combined work and play. Apparently, James doesn't know Jack. e