Game On

Marketing that uses gaming and other immersive technology proves to be more than just kids' play
Jul 03, 2007
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

jeff hazelton, president of biolucid
You are commanding a white blood cell as it travels through the blood stream. Your mission: to collect as many adhesion molecule inhibitors as you can to defeat an evil autoimmune disease. Bank left, bank right, squeeze through the tiniest vessels, plough through the refuse in the largest arteries. But be careful. If you veer off course and crash through those delicate vessel walls before reaching your goal, it's GAME OVER.

Using 3-D immersive technology, pharmaceutical companies can create virtual exhibit booths that help expand their ability to present information at a convention. This same technology can be used to create mechanism-of-action video games to market to doctors.
No, this isn't a hot new video game for the PlayStation 3. It's the latest marketing tool being used to grab physicians' attention at conventions and meetings. Video games, it seems, are just as much fun for doctors as they are for kids. BioLucid, a medical animation studio and game-design firm established by pharma marketing expatriates, has spent the last few years developing immersive video game technology, 3-D animation movies (think Shrek), and virtual exhibit booths to bring some much-needed buzz to the trade show floor. Pharm Exec spoke to Jeff Hazelton, president of BioLucid, to learn more about this new marketing strategy.

Why video games and pharma?

For years now, many pharmaceutical companies have used cutting-edge 3-D animation to draw physicians to their booths on the convention floor. As animation became the norm, pharma companies began looking at new ways to make an impact at shows. With gaming technology, companies can display immersive animation that allows doctors to explore inside an interactive environment pertaining to a particular drug's mechanism of action (MOA).

How can marketers use this technology at a convention?

Right now, we are doing dual projects: 3-D animations and games, which work together in an exhibit environment. First, the convention attendee watches a traditional 3-D mechanism of action animation shown on TV screens around the booth. In a separate area of the booth, the interactive games are set up with computers, a joystick, and a flat-screen monitor.

Could you give an example of a game?

In one case, doctors controlled a white blood cell. The goal was to collect adhesion molecule inhibitors because that's what the client was promoting. The game is kind of like Defender, where the user controls a ship and tries to pick objects up without hitting the walls. Once they picked up enough inhibitors, the cell became "immune" and would no longer go through the wall. The game showcased a drug for an autoimmune disease that involved diapedesis, which is when a white blood cell migrates through the wall of the vessel out into tissue and causes inflammation. So the doctors were essentially stopping that white blood cell from exiting the blood vessel. And as they collected these inhibitors, fewer cells would penetrate the wall, hence less inflammation. Doctors were waiting in line for the opportunity to compete against each other—and at the same time, they were educated about the drug's MOA.

What was the reaction from the physicians?

We had a leader board that listed the name of the highest-scoring doctor. Physicians were constantly coming by the booth to see if someone else had beaten their score and would often play again or listen to a spiel from the salespeople. It was a big success in that it allowed the pharma company to attract people to its booth with something engaging and unique. It gave the company the opportunity to interface with these people that were waiting to play or that were watching their peers play.

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