Unplanned hospital visits among the elderly can be costly, unnecessary, and have serious health consequences. Thus, in 2019, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) hosted a $1.65 million prize challenge to encourage innovators to develop AI technology that could predict hospital visits and adverse events. To help expand their pool of applicants, the challenge hired the marketing firm, Sensis, to manage and promote the challenge to top-tier data scientists who don’t typically work with the CMS or the federal government. Through unique marketing tactics, we were able to help secure press for the challenge in prominent media outlets and draw over 200 submissions.
The value of open innovation challenges such as this one, is that they help enhance research and development (R&D) by including a wide range of niche innovators in the problem-solving process. To reach diverse applicants with the necessary skillset, prize challenges require an extensive promotional campaign, which should ideally be led by an integrated marketing firm.
The open innovation model has been around since the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Firms often use this approach when incentives such as procurement and patents fail to motivate solvers. While there are debates about whether private sector practices can succeed in public sector organizations, the use of prize challenges by the federal government increased significantly after Congress passed the America COMPETES Act in 2007. As challenges continue to gain traction within both private and public spheres, new services have cropped up to support them.
Marketing agencies have unique skills in promotion and recruitment to help these competitions reach beyond their internal R&D teams and collaborate with global innovators. Blending traditional marketing strategies with an open innovation approach, they target and persuade technical innovators to participate. Agencies’ unique marketing tactics such as compelling video announcements and launch events can draw considerable press attention and social media interest. Agencies understand that to raise awareness, all messaging and outreach must be authentic, personalized, and dynamic.
As prize challenges continue to rise in popularity, more and more firms are hiring marketing agencies to design, promote, and administer them. Research shows that the power of intermediaries lies in the fact that they are experts themselves. They know how to not only identify the fringe players in new markets, but reach them in a way that feels organic to them.
By recruiting nonconventional innovators to participate in open innovation prize challenges, marketing agencies encourage new groups to become active problem-solvers while sparking cutting-edge ideas for organizations that can truly make a difference and change lives.
Sharon Carothers is Managing Director and Hieu Nguyen is a Junior Account Executive at SensisHealth a specialized health care marketing practice helping providers, payers, government and nonprofits, pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers improve outcomes for a diverse population of patients, consumers and caregivers.