Relypsa: pitching a disease education campaign for a new drug on the market in just 5 days

With just 5 days on hand, our agency was tasked with creating a disease education campaign to treat hyperkalemia (the presence of higher potassium levels in blood). We quickly jump started our work on a campaign and strategy for deployment of the tactics. 

Day 1: getting to know the problem

Relypsa had been developing an oral suspension for the treatment of hyperkalemia. At the time, they were completing phase 3 of their clinical trials and wanted to prepare for an entry into the market. FDA regulations prevent companies from marketing drugs until they have approval for use.

We were tasked with developing a disease education or unbranded campaign to help raise awareness for hyperkalemia. Unbranded campaigns are an advertising technique used to raise awareness of a disease or condition without mentioning a treatment by name.

understanding the science

Before I hashed out campaign ideas, I sat down with a medical director, studied medical papers, and slide decks. Then, I diagrammed the medical scenario to shape it into an easy-to-digest format.

By sketching out notes, I'm can quickly organize information into buckets of content

I also translated complex medical jargon with analogies and simple phrasing


After I wrapped my head around the science, I developed a story to complete the puzzle.


This process revealed the answer to the question: What’s the campaign story?

After breaking down the medical situation, I was able to move forward with the creative process with a fully understanding of hyperkalemia and the danger it posed to patients with CKD.

A large word bank and a tiny drawing

Day 2: writing and sketching

I pooled together the medical research and started to pull out relevant terms for my word bank. The word bank helps to craft the story of hyperkalemia. With this list, I was able to conjure the right copy and visuals that would serve as the foundation of the campaign.

My earlier medical research revealed the importance of highlighting the negative effects of high levels of potassium that paralyzes the doctor’s treatment. Since potassium is a chemical element represented by the letter K, I started experimenting with the letter K and K+ (+ = positive). 

I continued to explore the word bank for images of traps, chains, roadblocks, puppets, and obstacles alluding to potassium as the thorn in the side. I also wrote copy lines next to my drawings to help cement the creative. 

Exploring several ideas with the letter K

Developing the idea, writing more copy

Experimenting with wireframes and placement of copy

Refining the K shape in the tracks

I regrouped with my internal creative team and discussed the sketches. We ranked our designs and moved forward with two options. I promptly composed both of them in Photoshop.

Potassium as a roadblock to treatment

Potassium derailing a treatment option

Day 3: designing the campaign and brand

I tag teamed with my creative director, art directors, and copywriters to refined the art. We finally landed on a final campaign image.

The final art were placed on an orange background. From the sketches to the final design, we opted for a lighter, vector-heavy look. The tracks were redrawn using vectors and light shadows. This allowed us to define the K shape clearly. 

Brand development

To bring unity to the campaign, our team worked on creating a color palette, typography, and logo.


The color palette was inspired by the Relypsa company logo, with orange and yellow as highlight colors.


FDA regulations often stipulate restrained typographic styles. In the interest of neutrality, most pharma companies use vanilla fonts such as Arial and Verdana. 

To differentiate our brand, we selected Gotham, a modern sans-serif alternative with a neutral appearance.


The name is derived from HK, an abbreviation for hyperkalemia. The reduction of potassium (K) is signified with the two arrows extending from the letter K.

Day 4: creating a strategy for deployment of tactics

Our strategy was built on non-personal promotion (NPP) tactics, a method of marketing to a larger, targeted audience without the usual one-to-one interactions by a pharma sales rep.

We focused on creating responsive website with videos and quizzes to raise awareness about hyperkalemia with nephrologists and cardiologists. To drive clicks to the website we proposed employing advertorials, journal ads, and banner ads. We also suggested a video series featuring key opinion leaders (KOLs) to provide their medical voiceover.

Responsive website

To iterate the website design quickly, I organized my work into ten areas of focus. I also gathered inspiration from other unbranded campaigns to develop a beautiful, optimized layout.

I sketched a rough wireframe of the homepage and experimented with copywriting treatments and category navigation that would take advantage of the real estate.

The underpinnings of the wireframe inform the final design of the desktop and mobile homepage.

Here is the final website design:

I also mocked up a video library page and a pathophysiology page:

Our KOL videos are a major call to action with the subsequent video library page given extra attention.

The pathophysiology section was designed to discuss different states of potassium within different patient populations.

The circles on the art were designed with interactivity in mind.

I also included a landing page for our proposed quiz game for doctors:


Advertorials and interactive journal ad

Our team identified key medical journals that would increase awareness of hyperkalemia (e.g. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology). In this example, I designed the ad as an interactive piece featuring an animated campaign and an embedded video of a KOL.


I designed rich media banner ads for various healthcare professional platforms. In this example, I mocked up the CKD information page for Medscape, an online resource of medical journals and continuing medical education. The banner employed animation for the campaign and data along with an embedded video.

I also mocked up a tactic for QuantiaMD, a social network exclusively for physicians. In this example, a KOL video lives along QuantiaMD’s commenting and rating tools to encourage physician discussions.


Day 5: pitch time

In less than a week, we designed an unbranded disease awareness campaign and developed a strategy for deployment with no time to spare. 

Our team worked tirelessly to compile our campaign and strategy into a deck. They delivered excellent pitch with rousing applause from the client. They were thrilled by our innovative, striking campaign. The extra attention we placed on the strategy was also well received. While the client went with another agency, our upper management was proud of the work. It was a testament to the high quality output and the efficiency of our team.

Lessons learned

When presented with our deadline, being meticulously organized made all the difference. And by writing out the narrative, the campaign and the strategy unfolded naturally. I was able to make sure that I fully understood the problem and the marketing needs.

It was important for me to take a hand in writing the copy as well as designing the visuals. That way, the combined forces lept off the page and make an immediate impact, not relying on lorem ipsum or other filler copy. A hybrid approach also encouraged an unconventional course while still reinforcing our theme.

Collaborating with the creative director, other art directors, copywriters, editors, project managers, developers, partners, strategists, and account leads, ensured a holistic approach viewed from all angles. By bouncing off ideas, iterating them, and encouraging a startup-like environment, we established a feedback loop that saved countless number of hours.

In the end, our solid team dynamicsfresh thinking, and a little elbow grease helped raise the bar for disease awareness campaigns. 


For sketching, I used a lot of pencils, pens, and scrap paper from recycled printouts. I comped the initial layouts in Photoshop. The final layout was designed using Illustrator and Photoshop. The websites, banners, and remaining collateral was designed with InDesign. For organization and copywriting, I relied primarily on Evernote and Word.