Concentric Health Experience works to end silence over postpartum depression, earns 'Best in Show' award

Concentric Health Experience faced a challenge when the agency was asked to launch an awareness campaign around postpartum depression. What's the right tone when reaching out to new moms?

Should they keep it light? Images featuring stuffed animals were discussed, but that idea was discarded. The campaign needed to catch attention and to get people talking, and convey the seriousness of the condition.

“It comes down to stopping power,” said Kathryn Black, senior copywriter at Concentric, the agency behind the campaign for Sage Therapeutics. “We needed to really shatter the stigma and this culture of silence associated with postpartum depression.”

The campaign was deemed effective enough that it was named Best in Show, or campaign of the year, in the 5th annual 2018 Healthcare Marketing Impact Awards.

The campaign's creators had several goals, including getting women to recognize the symptoms of the condition and motivating them to speak to their doctor. It also aimed to get doctors to use industry-backed screeners to diagnose the ailment. Too often, clinicians' assessments for postpartum depression would end after a woman said they were feeling fine after birth.

silence sucks

Postpartum depression is the most common medical complication of childbirth, affecting 10% to 20% of women in the U.S. Despite this prevalence, approximately 50% of all postpartum depression cases go undiagnosed by healthcare professionals. Sage is a biopharmaceutical company that's in the process of developing 
a clinical treatment for postpartum depression.

Another factor the campaign's creators had to account for was the stigma around the condition and mental illness in general. Women don't want to believe they may be experiencing the condition due to its depiction in popular culture.

“They have these ideas of postpartum psychosis, that it is the sensationalized story you hear in the media of the mother harming themselves or the baby,” said Kristina Teng, senior vice president and client service director at Concentric. “Postpartum depression has many levels of severity, and that is the farthest to the right.”

In the spring of 2017, the “Silence Sucks” campaign officially launched during the annual American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists conference.

Clinicians were surrounded with a variety of media: static panels, hanging banners, door drops, elevator clings, interactive kiosks, and a video wall featuring the women from the campaign spitting out pacifiers.

Sucking on a pacifier was meant to symbolize both the silent suffering that many new mothers endure as a result of postpartum depression and the harmful effects it can have on the mother-infant relationship.

The images were also meant to convey the painful internal conflict of women wanting to be a “perfect” mother but experiencing intense feelings of sadness, guilt and anxiety.

Patients were targeted via bus and train wraps in Boston, the home of Sage Therapeutics, where officials were happy with the results.

Concentric was the ideal firm for the campaign given its history with the pharmaceutical company, according to Mary Malito, associate director of postpartum depression marketing at Sage Therapeutics. The drug company launched seven years ago, and it's been working with Concentric for three years. Over that time, Concentric has truly gotten to know Sage's culture, making it best suited to launch an outreach effort that upholds the company's voice and ideals, Malito said.

Following the campaign's launch, several maternal mental health advocacy groups shared the campaign on their social media networks.

The campaign was also featured in the Huffington Post.


Virgil Dickson

Virgil Dickson reports from Washington on the federal regulatory agencies. His experience before joining Modern Healthcare in 2013 includes serving as the Washington-based correspondent for PRWeek and as an editor/reporter for FDA News. Dickson earned a bachelor's degree from DePaul University in 2007.

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