Telehealth companies treating sexual health and reproductive care have been scrambling since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. While many people stocked up on emergency contraceptives like Plan B, the legality of buying pills for a medical abortion got murky. Wisp, which already offers birth control and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, is now offering medical abortions, and is the largest telehealth player to do so.
Monica Cepak, chief marketing officer of Wisp, tells Marketing Daily about the decision.
Marketing Daily: The step from selling birth control to offering abortions is a giant leap, especially in today's climate. How did you decide?
Monica Cepak: Wisp is the leading sexual reproductive telehealth service, offering same-day treatment and prescriptions for commonly stigmatized conditions, including herpes, yeast infections and birth control. And after the news about Roe v. Wade, we accelerated our timeline for launching our medical abortion service, moving the launch up by a few months. It's essential healthcare when it feels like it could not be more important.
We'll offer the
medications first in California, with plans to expand to Illinois, New York and Colorado by the end of this quarter. And we'll continue looking to expand in other states.
Marketing Daily: Besides Hey Jane and Plan C, plenty of information sites guide people to online prescriptions. What will you do differently?
Cepak: Ours will be priced at $200, making us the most affordable, and 30% cheaper than alternatives. Affordability is important to us.
Marketing Daily: How are your marketing it?
Cepak: On our social platforms and through Google AdWords. And we're turning off all marketing tracking to ensure patient safety. We'll take a more local approach initially and potentially move to some paid social advertising as we get a few weeks under our belt. We have a limited capacity regarding how many patients we can see initially. And so it depends on demand. And, of course, we'll partner with Plan C and all the online directories so that people can find us.
Marketing Daily: Getting this abortion medication to people in states limiting access has gotten complicated. Many people are using mail-forwarding.
Cepak: We don't ship PO boxes. We need to have a confirmed physical address.
Marketing Daily: Abortion opponents are already stepping up attacks on social media, spreading misinformation. Much of it alleges that these safe medications are dangerous. As a CMO, how do you counter that charge?
Cepak: It all comes down to education. The right information can educate everyone. This is a safe medication for people who are 10 weeks or less pregnant. We'll just keep explaining and demystifying. We'll be rolling out more content and educational videos.
Marketing Daily: Will you use your doctors in ads?
Cepak: There are challenges about putting our medical providers in marketing, putting their name out in a public space in ways that could make them unsafe. We must keep their safety and their families' safety in mind.
Marketing Daily: This medication has been used safely in the U.S. since 2000. But that doesn't mean there can't be complications or that patients won't have questions. How do you support that?
Cepak: We're launching a 24/7 hotline precisely for that reason. And we also verify that all patients are within an hour's drive of an ER, should they need it.
Marketing Daily: You've also just launched an ad campaign in New York. What's that about?
Cepak: New York has one of the largest gaps between providers and patients. The average wait time for a doctor's visit is 26 days. And with access to reproductive care, we decided we should launch our first out-of-home campaign. It explains how people can get birth control and emergency contraception, along with herpes and UTI medication, online for same-day pickup from their local pharmacy, without a doctor's visit. We just want to let people know there's a better way to get care.
It's also part of a cause effort. We're donating 1% of birth control proceeds to SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change and New York Birth Control Access Project (NYBCAP), through the end of August.
We also recently launched our first TV campaign and have seen positive traction. We're taking a comical approach to de-stigmatizing sexual and reproductive healthcare, especially treating herpes. It's a different approach and shows we don't shy away from those hard conversations.