This is the second post in a blog series about October’s Global PR Summit hosted by the Holmes Report in Miami. For the first post on socially responsible brands, click here. For a post on Royal Caribbean click here

Two-thousand years ago a glassmaker used his self-confidence and access to new technology to become what is possibly the world’s first brand.

Ennion used the blowpipe, developed around 50 B.C., to turn hot glass into new shapes using molds. With bright colors and intricate designs, he turned everyday jugs, flasks, cups, bowls and beakers into exquisite pieces of artwork, decorating kitchens and dinner tables throughout the Roman Empire.

“You can’t think about brands without thinking about culture,” said Weber Shandwick President Gail Heimann, projecting the photo below onto a screen in a St. Regis conference room. Echoing curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which held an exhibit about Ennion in 2015, she noted his pieces were branded with a Greek phrase translated as, “Ennion made me.”

“Ennion made me,” reads the inscription by the 1st-century craftsman who started off in Lebanon and may have moved to northern Italy as demand for his products grew.

Heimann used this fascinating tale from antiquity to set up a conversation with two clients representing modern-day brands as ubiquitous as Ennion in his day — Excedrin and Royal Caribbean. Judy Berei, global brand lead for Excedrin, and Tracy Quan, associate VP, global grand communications at Royal Caribbean joined Heimann to explore brand marketing’s most existential question: Is culture a security blanket for brands or are brands a security blanket for people? (Check back tomorrow for the post about Royal Caribbean.)

Debate Winner

Berei told the audience she took Excedrin’s 2012 recall as an opportunity for reinvention. Indeed, the advertising and PR teams have amped up the 50-year-old brand in recent years. With a mix encompassing the time-tested PR strategy of using third-party influencers to an unprecedented use of technology, the creative thinking led to two stand-out campaigns: #DebateHeadache and The Migraine Experience.

The Weber-Excedrin team used social listening and proprietary research to inform their 2016 #DebateHeadache campaign consisting of a Twitter promoted trend. Their study revealed that 70% of Americans thought last year’s election caused more headaches than any other election – with nearly a third citing debates as the most headache-inducing part. Using this insight they used #DebateHeadache to offer pain relief caused by the third and final debate two weeks before election day.

“Getting into the political realm can be a little treacherous,” said Berei, noting that marketers serve as culture counselors to the C-Suite when evaluating risk and reward. “You can assert yourself into the conversation but it has to feel right.”



Leading up to the debate, Excedrin delivered custom “head pain relief kits” to lifestyle, health and political journalists, teasing that a big headache was coming and that Excedrin would be there to provide relief. On debate day, Excedrin began its tweets with: “The possibility of a #DebateHeadache is high. Be prepared with Excedrin.” Soon, the Twitterverse was joining in as Excedrin kept the chuckles coming.

As pundits disputed which candidate won the night, CNN and AdWeek declared Excedrin the winner. The campaign went on to win a Bronze Lion for PR in the Health and Wellness/OTC Medicines category at the 2017 Cannes Lions Health festival.



The Migraine Experience

The Excedrin team in April 2016 also launched “The Migraine Experience,” the world’s first augmented reality migraine simulator, to unlock a new level of understanding around migraines and the impact they have on the daily lives of the 36 million sufferers in the U.S. The video aspects of the campaign featured family and friends of migraine sufferers who used the simulator to experience what their loved ones were feeling. New York Times best-selling author Andy Cohen and psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Seng amplified the emotional pain caused by social stigmas. How many times have you heard people say, “How can it be so bad?”

“We used content generation and technology to tell that story,” Berei said. “It helped people connect. In an era of short-attention spans, the campaign broke through for sure.”

While I don’t suffer from migraines, I’m sure I was one of millions of people to empathize with those who do after seeing the TV spots. Who wouldn’t be touched by an EMT who wants excruciating pain to go away so he can save lives?


The Excedrin and Weber Shandwick teams also demonstrate how a brilliant idea, supported by pristine execution, resonates with top-tier news organizations. Given that journalists receive countless pitches a week, getting a reporter to walk down a hall with an augmented reality mask is a huge feat.



Touching people’s lives puts brands on the path to longevity. “Our goal at Excedrin is to create an enduring brand, not just one that lives in the moment,” Berei said.

Ennion was thinking about that, too.


Glass with gladiators. Sometimes Ennion inscribed his work with “may the buyer be remembered”…as in “by the gods.” Image credit: © Corning Museum of Glass. Text from the New York Times, March 5, 2015


Sally-Ann O’Dowd is a multimedia media content producer and publicist who recently moved from New York City to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., so she could swim more. She founded Sally On Media to help marketers build their brands through creative storytelling. For more info, visit or write Sally-Ann at

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