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How to drive awareness for an ambitious scientific challenge
Case Study: Indiana University School of Medicine

How to drive awareness for an ambitious scientific challenge

Higher Education
Medical Research
Field of study
Branded content


Indiana University (IU) celebrates its 200th birthday in 2020, and will be marking this important anniversary with a series of grand scientific challenges. The IU School of Medicine has set up the Precision Health Initiative for perhaps the most ambitious plan of all – to find a cure or effective treatment for at least one cancer.

Based in Indianapolis, IU educates more medical students than any other university in the USA, and it has seen its NIH funding grow 40% in the last four years.


The IU School of Medicine wanted to recruit rising stars – individuals who excel in their fields – whose expertise could build on the school’s existing strengths and continue the fight against cancer. By raising awareness of their Precision Health Initiative, including investments in technology and facilities, the University hoped to place its faculty at the forefront of precision research on the global scientific stage.


To broadcast their message to scientists around the world, IU partnered with Nature Research Custom Media. With such an ambitious initiative, substantial funding, and cross-discipline appeal, branded content presented an ideal solution. It allowed IU to publish a series of four articles on and in print that reached millions of scientists around the world. Our team of editors and specialists worked with IU to publish the articles over a six-month period. Each article was supported by a multi-channel traffic driving campaign, which A/B tested messaging and creative. The channels combined native and display ads with social media advertising and solus email promotion.

Branded content series on

Targeting a cure for breast cancer

$120-million IU Precision Health Initiative seeks star scientists

Elegant science brings precision to cancer therapies

How can you cure a cancer? With precision


The combined marketing activity to promote the four branded content articles delivered over 20,000 pageviews. Across the marketing-mix, social media advertising performed at the highest rate, driving a significant portions of the overall traffic. There was a clear trend showing that promoted social posts with a careers-led message generated the highest response.

IU branded content print example

Print example

Publishing a series of articles allowed IU to build a relationship with the audience, increasing their brand awareness as the series progressed. There was strong engagement from readers; for example, dwell time was as high as nine minutes for the September article. Scroll depth tracking on the September and December articles also revealed that just over half of users viewed between 50% and 100% of those articles.

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