A Look Back, by Rachel Sexton

In May, I celebrated twenty years with VPR. As I reflected on how fortunate I was to find a company that would challenge me and grow with me (I never imagined I would commemorate two decades at VPR and the birth of our fifth child on the same date!), I also spent some time marveling at how much our company has evolved in that time.

In 1998, our sole focus was VPR Creative Group: developing product launches, creating marketing campaigns and producing videos, primarily for the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. My first launch, as a writer and producer, was for Allegra-D and included a rousing performance by a championship cheer squad and a demonstration from an Olympic table tennis star. As we worked with the Allegra marketing team in the years to come, a video interview with IRL race car driver Robbie Buhl (filmed in his crew’s Indianapolis garage) put into perspective the severity of what is often written off as the minor annoyance of seasonal allergies: in the time it took to close his eyes and sneeze, his car could travel halfway around a race track.

Robbie is far from the only celebrity we’ve had the pleasure of working with at VPR Creative Group. I never thought I’d be spending an evening at Kevin Costner’s home in Santa Barbara as we talked about the importance of raising awareness around deep vein thrombosis (DVT)… and neither did our client. The owner of VPR, Curtis Pickering, was actually doing creative work on an architectural project with Kevin when he got lost driving from the Costner estate back to his hotel. This was 2005 – GPS dark ages – so he pulled into a fire station to ask for assistance. The firefighters told Curtis what a great guy Kevin was and that he had recently visited the station to bring them a gift. Curtis mentioned this the next day when he saw Kevin, who said, “Well, those guys saved my life! I almost died from a DVT. You’ve probably never heard of it…” In fact, Curtis – and the entire VPR team – was well versed on the potentially lethal blood clots since one of our clients was an anticoagulant to prevent DVT. Over a beer and a handshake, Curtis convinced Kevin of the importance of sharing his story, and just a few months later, we were directing a video of the Academy Award-winning Director sharing his powerful story.

kevin costnerWhile there have been plenty of those “pinch me” moments over the years, the people who have made the most profound impression on me don’t have an agent or walk the red carpet. They are people like you and me who face the challenge of a frightening diagnosis and leave others inspired by their journey. Those people not only make me want to work harder and do better, they are at the beginning and end of everything we do at VPR Patient Outreach Program (VPR POP), the branch we started in 2010.

When we were approached that year and asked to participate in an RFP for a patient program, we told the prospective client that they were crazy; we were their creative boutique, their launch source…we didn’t develop patient programs. Our very insightful, soon-to-be client acknowledged that while we hadn’t yet developed a patient program, no one was better than VPR at sharing the voice of the patient – the Robbies and Kevins and so many others who weren’t household names but whose healthcare journeys were equally deserving of the spotlight. Eight years and 27,000 patient programs later, we have to agree with the old adage that the customer is always right!

Today, we enjoy the best of both worlds – offering full-service creative, production, launch development, marketing and even texting networks through VPR Creative Group; and recruiting, training and developing patient programs on the VPR POP side.
Twenty years ago, as I graduated from the University of Missouri, I may have not been entirely shocked to think that my shiny Bachelor of Journalism degree would give me access to an Indy car garage or land me an interview with a Hollywood legend, but I could have never dreamed that I’d be honored to play a role in helping others to live well with progressive and rare diseases. And that is not only what makes every day of the last 20 years more than worth it, it’s what makes thinking about the next 20 years so very exciting.

To learn more about what we do at VPR Creative Group and VPR Patient Outreach Program, please call me at 816-756-5999 or email me at rachel@vprcreativegroup.com.

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