Boehringer, pharmas turn to social gaming for online outreach

Call it PharmaVille. As drugmakers seek creative ways to dazzle consumers online, they have ripped pages from the playbooks of gaming companies that have made digital pastimes such as "FarmVille" popular on Facebook. And so-called "gamification" has generated plenty of buzz among drug company marketers, InPharm reports.

Take Boehringer Ingelheim, which made public months ago that the German drugmaker wants to create a social game dubbed "Syrum" that would let players tend to virtual R&D projects and traffic in scientific talent and compounds, according to InPharm's article. And just like FarmVille sneaks in not-so-subtle messages from advertisers like McDonald's, Boehringer wants to use its social game as a platform to deliver dispatches about certain health conditions, with the added bonus of educating them about the oft-vilified pharma industry.

As InPharm reports, Boehringer and John Pugh, the company's digital communications director, have been on the vanguard of pharma companies exploring new online avenues to approach target audiences. Those efforts led the company to Twitter 5 years ago, and now they are advancing toward the world of gaming. Yet the drug marketing community isn't the only one to espouse the virtues of video games in the biopharma game.

For instance, Martin Leach, the CIO of the Broad Institute, has pushed for aspects of gaming in R&D operations to reward scientists for accomplishing certain tasks.

Yet pharma has a reputation for digital plodding. And Boehringer's social game, which the drugmaker aims to make available on Facebook, missed a late-2011 release date and is now slated to go live late this year, the pharma publication reports. We'll see whether the company can pull off the gaming stunt.

- read InPharm's article