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Thought leadership

Can Twitch scratch an itch for pharma?

Megan Grissett, Associate Director, Engagement Strategy and Social MediaTiffany Tsan, Manager, Engagement Strategy and Social Media By Megan Grissett, Associate Director, Engagement Strategy and Social Media
and Tiffany Tsan, Manager, Engagement Strategy and Social Media

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Pharma is looking for new ways to reach new audiences and Twitch may be it

With the growth in gaming usage, particularly during COVID-19, individuals were stuck at home and glued to multiple devices when the world was under lockdown measures. At the height of the lockdown, 55% of US consumers were playing video games.1 Gaming represented a newfound way to stay connected with friends and to be a source of in-home entertainment. Ubiquitous high-speed broadband Internet access has enabled gamers across the globe to compete and/or collaborate within games while communicating with each other in real time. And, while it is important to mention gaming’s unique growth during COVID-19, the fact of the matter is, the gaming industry has been around for decades, and it continues to evolve.


Next year will mark 50 years since the launch of Atari, the globally recognized pioneer of in-home game consoles. Since then, innovation has brought us to a new cultural revolution in gaming, such as the rise of esports, which has built an industry for professionally organized video game competitions. Additionally, gaming celebrities and influencers have partnered with gaming brands. Platforms like Twitch, a video live streaming service that focuses on video games, including broadcasts of esports competitions, live music broadcasts, and non-gaming creative content, capitalizes on this revolution and offers opportunities for brands to spend their marketing dollars within this channel. For healthcare and pharma brands, the question remains: is this territory worth exploring?

The solution for pharma might be buried in the way we associate a specific condition to an aspect of a video game, such as in linking a memory game to an Alzheimer’s drug or solving puzzles to bring awareness to ADHD. Cooperative gameplay on a platform could promote patient community building and provide patients with a channel to meet and engage with patients like themselves. Gaming can have a profound impact on the way we deliver disease awareness and patient care. If authentic connection points can be made to how health is linked to digital gaming, then there could be tremendous potential for pharma to reach, engage, and influence patients, caregivers, advocates, and even potentially prescribers.

We’ve seen similar approaches done on platforms like Twitch. Within the past year, Genentech partnered up with Twitch to create a custom Twitch Rivals tournament to raise awareness about hemophilia.2 Turning off “blood mode” within the game Apex Legends provided a unique opportunity for the brand and influencers to raise awareness about a serious blood disorder, granting players immunity from blood loss throughout the game. This allowed gamers to experience a customized version of a game for a limited time and was an innovative way for another pharma brand to venture into a new platform.


Twitch offers brands a way to reach unique audiences

Video gaming is expected to be $300 billion industry by 2025.3 Twitch is at the confluence of video games, creativity, entertainment, commerce, and social engagement, offering brands a way to reach unique audiences through varietal content. With 7.9 million daily unique visitors and 424 million monthly hours watched, Twitch has massive reach in the US.4 The number of women tuning into Twitch increased 177% between October 2019 and July 2020.5

With this massive shift in demographics, as well as the expansion of the community beyond just gamers, now is the time for brands, especially within pharma, to rethink and grow how they engage within this audience. Twitch’s audience is responsive to advertising, as 56% tends to buy brands they see advertised on the platform (120 index). The ad experience on Twitch ranges from standard advertising (display and video) to more premium promotions, such as sponsorship opportunities, influencer marketing, and custom experiences. For some healthcare and pharma brands, campaign objectives can be met utilizing any one of these ad products, however, for ads that require Important Safety Information, current ad creative limitations may be an issue. Currently, Twitch ads are capped at : 60s, which poses a challenge for pharma and ads with longer safety information. As Twitch continues to evolve, quality solutions for pharma to ensure brand safety and regulatory requirements could be offered in the future.

A common approach for pharma brands entering new social media and streaming platforms is to focus on disease education as a primary entry point, especially when the inclusion of brand safety and ISI language is not yet available. This provides an opportunity to see if brands are successfully reaching and engaging their preferred target audiences to learn if it is worthwhile to invest further. By testing the waters through unbranded initiatives, pharma brands can run pilot ads, partner up with influencers, and work with reps to build custom experiences more quickly and nimbly due to less regulatory barriers.

Last May, for instance, Merck KGaA partnered up with Twitch to build a custom experience to raise awareness about multiple sclerosis on World MS Day.6 They ran an 8-hour livestreamed event involving an open discussion on MS among Twitch streamers, patients, KOLs, and more. Not only did this program host an open online dialogue during the beginning of COVID-19, a time of social isolation those within the MS community can relate to, but it also raised funds for the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF) Informed Decision Making program. This program provides free digital resources for the MS community. As a whole, the Twitch community has raised over $200M in donations to date for various causes around the globe.7


Pharma is only scratching the surface in connecting with the Twitch audience

Twitch is a new space for pharma brands, offering a unique experience with a customer base that’s deeply engaged in the gaming community. Pharma is only scratching the surface in connecting with this previously untapped audience in new and engaging ways as the platform continues to evolve. In many ways, pharma’s presence in gaming as a whole will continue to grow. From building customized events for adult streamers on Twitch, to building therapeutic games for kids to navigate through ADHD, pharma is entering into a new realm of connecting with desired target audiences in this space.8 If campaign initiatives are executed in a seamless and engaging way, gamers will further connect through shared experiences to learn more about particular conditions and to ultimately band together for a greater good.9

Evoke’s Social Media Center of Excellence helps healthcare clients assess the right social strategy and platform mix to reach audiences where they are. The team builds integrative campaigns and works in partnership with reps across all social platforms to build the right brand activation for you. For more information, please email us at