The flu virus can spread before a carrier exhibits symptoms, making it difficult to relay rapid awareness of the sickness until it has already affected a community. Historically, targeting areas where the flu was active meant leveraging weeks-old (and sometimes months-old) data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC manually tracks and aggregates physician-reported counts of the flu and other sickness from the state level, publishing a weekly report. By the time the report is published, the data is two weeks old, and the maximum impact of flu in any given area has already been felt. In a world of real-time engagement, stale data is unacceptable, especially when it comes to health. Glaxo-Smith Kline (GSK) partnered with Resolution Media to find a solution that could provide real value to consumers and reach them before they got sick, not after.

GSK sought to reach people in areas most susceptible to the flu to warn them that sickness was reported in their community and to subsequently sell its fast-relieving severe cold and flu symptoms medication, Theraflu, through online ads across devices.


GSK and Resolution Media put the consumers’ needs at the center of this campaign by partnering with data providers to pinpoint areas where the flu was spreading and educate people in real-time about preventing the flu. With Theraflu’s Cold and Flu Tracker, a mobile and website app, consumers could see how the flu was spreading in real time and online. The brand used this data to reach people in these areas with ads to spread awareness of the reach of the flu and suggest its own product for symptom treatment.

To look beyond the standard targeting tactics and find a more accurate way to reach individuals susceptible to the cold and flu, GSK merged three sources of data (social, location and weather), which typically inform disparate components of a campaign, to make more informed targeting decisions to reach the right people at the right time with the right message across the purchase funnel.


Knowing people are inherently social and have an impulse to broadcast their physical state of being, GSK sought to leverage the power of social media. Through Sickweather, an online social health network and sickness forecasting mapping engine, GSK monitored social conversations in real time and analyzed social sentiment with machine learning and natural language processing to identify areas of cold and flu activity. When people tweeted about getting a sore throat, regret around not getting a flu shot, or complained of fever, GSK turned those tweets into actionable insights. By mapping cold and flu-related social interactions to geographic coordinates, GSK tracked the volume of flu instances and their location. Additionally, because the flu virus thrives and spreads most easily in cold and dry climates, insights from Sickweather were coupled with weather data from The Weather Channel to identify the geographies most likely to experience flu outbreaks.

The union of these data sets informed the Theraflu Cold and Flu Tracker, an app that can be accessed across any device to give consumers real-time coverage of flu and cold activity in their communities. Resolution Media then used the combination of this data (as well as sentiment data and weather temperature data in silos) to programmatically reach people who lived in flu-susceptible areas across their mobile, tablet and desktop computers with banner and video ads warning of the impending flu virus, as well as a symptom remedy, Theraflu.


Spreading awareness of imminent flu outbreaks is essential for containment and minimizing the effects on a community, thus bolstering the importance of reaching consumers with Theraflu messaging. In 2016, the weather/sentiment targeting approach reached more than 6 million unique consumers on desktop alone, the highest of all targeting tactics. GSK also observed that consumers were 1.45x more likely to convert on desktop and 1.94x more likely to convert on mobile than those who were reached across any other standard targeting tactic, including weather alone, CDC data, and standard DSP targeting segments. In addition, GSK realized a 4% increase in sales across the Theraflu portfolio year over year.

Since implementing this campaign, Theraflu has seen increased performance across desktop and mobile placements:

  • Sentiment-targeted placements across display performed 71% better than weather temperature targeting
  • Within programmatic online video, Theraflu Cold and Flu Tracker data achieved an 80% video complete rate, outperforming standard targeting tactics