I just made one small entry into Wikipedia — the free online encyclopedia to which anybody with an Internet connection can contribute. It is just one small link on the page about Lunesta, which is here.

The article is very pharmacologically oriented — almost like a package insert, except for one important difference. It includes information about Pharmacodynamics, Pharmacokinetics, Absorption, etc., but no “fair balance” — that is, no information about side effects. A note posted in the discussion area linked to the article said: “I’d like to see some information about side effects, abuse, and effects in general.”

To date, no one — myself included — has taken up the task of completing the article by adding the full prescribing information. There are links, however, to the full label as well as to the Lunesta and Sepracor Web sites.

My addition to the article was a link to the Pharma Marketing Blog post “Lunesta: Golden or Bitter Pill?” I thought visitors to the Lunesta Wikipedia page might like to read that post.

I had another motive for adding this little bit to Wikipedia. It’s a test of the concept of “engagement,” which I reviewed briefly in my Oped piece in the July, 2006 issue of Pharma Marketing News.

What exactly is “engagement”?

According to Dr. Joseph Plummer, chief research officer for the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), an organization whose members include advertisers, advertising agencies, associations, research firms, and media companies,

“Engagement occurs as a result of a brand idea or media the consumer experiences which leaves a positive brand impression. It is now a critical advertising model to replace GRPs in the 21st century. It is important that we think hard about engagement to develop a robust measurement of when consumers are strongly engaged in brands, brand ideas and their surrounding environments.” [See “The Advertising Research Foundation Announces Definition of Engagement”.]

The working ARF definition is: “Engagement is turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context.”

What ARF is interested in is how to measure “engagement” so that advertisers who experiment with engaging consumers about a brand can measure how effective they have been. What I am interested in is the techniques that advertisers will be using or are using to do the engaging, not the measuring.

I haven’t sorted all this out yet, but “context” and “environment” in the above definitions stand out. What these guys really are talking about is “intruding” in the lives of consumers no matter what they might be doing. Here’s an example of what I mean that was recently reported in the New York Times (see “New Rules of Engagement”):

What is this non-nuptial form of engagement? Dawn E. Hudson, president and chief executive of Pepsi-Cola North America, offered an example. In six weeks, Pepsi plans to begin an advertising and promotional campaign that will offer consumers customized ring tones for cellphones, which can be downloaded from the Internet with codes found under soft drink bottle caps.

“Whenever the phone rings, you’ll think you got that from Pepsi,” said Ms. Hudson, whose company is part of PepsiCo. That engagement with Pepsi products and that “depth of brand experience,” she said, is far superior to what can be achieved with a “quick, passing message” like a TV commercial.

Another thing that consumers do and that advertisers would like to engage (intrude) in is creating their own content about brands on the Internet, especially in blogs, which is the most often cited form what’s called “Consumer Generated Content” or CGC for short. I have written about CGC before — see, for example, “Buzz ‘n Blog Marketing” and “Buzz ‘n Blogs — Stealth Marketing.”

Whatever the definition, pharmaceutical marketers are interested in “engaging” consumers (and physicians) through CGC channels. I know this because I have attended a few industry conferences where ideas for engaging consumers were discussed. Also, last week, BusinessWeek called me to ask about how pharmaceutical PR firms might be trying to influence bloggers like me. [I had to tell them that rather than “engage” me in productive conversation, most pharma PR people — like the folks over at Sepracor — refuse to answer my voicemail, letters, and e-mails.]

Engagement, therefore, is on pharmaceutical marketers’ radar screens. But are they seriously engaged yet? That’s where my Wikipedia experiment comes in.

Wikipedia is also a form of CGC, perhaps the most pure form of CGC. Anybody can write or edit a Wikipedia article. There have been over 50 contributions to the Wikipedia Lunesta article, for example. The original article could have been written by an ordinary Joe who may also be an employee of Sepracor. I can see what other Wikipedia articles this person wrote, but I don’t think there is any bio that would tell me who he is or whether he is actually employed by Sepracor or not.

But, it doesn’t matter who originally wrote the article. Anybody can edit what Joe wrote. Joe can go back and re-edit it, and so on and so on. It’s like fingerpainting — it’s the process that counts (it’s fun), not the finished piece of work.

Some Lunesta PR or marketing person may read this post, go the Wikipedia Lunesta page and edit out (remove) my brief link to “Lunesta: Golden or Bitter Pill?“.

And they will think “I have engaged the enemy and they are mine.” But I will go right back and replace the link. Ha, ha!