In 2020 GSK’s Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel launched as an over the counter (OTC) medication after previously only being available as a prescription. However, awareness among US arthritis sufferers was low. In addition, the US pain relief category was highly competitive, featuring established brands such as Tylenol, Aleve, Icy Hot and BioFreeze. Working with global communications agency Weber Shandwick, GSK launched to provide ongoing emotional and functional support to sufferers.

Research and testing among patients ensured that the site was built with arthritis-friendly functionality such as a voice-enabled chatbot and hands-free searches as well as product education and incentivisation. Its two-phase launch strategy generated pre-launch awareness and anticipation and then ongoing advice-based content, samples and reviews when the product was available to buy. The site was the first arthritis-friendly online user experience in the US. After its launch, Voltaren was ranked first in the External Analgesics Category.

Objectives & Aims

GSK briefed Weber Shandwick to raise awareness of Voltaren among osteoarthritis (OA) sufferers 35 years old and over, 45% of which were men and 55% of whom were women.

Implementation, execution and tactics

To reach a high household penetration, the brand needed a digital strategy which provided arthritis patients with an ‘always-on’ emotional and functional support system. GSK and Weber Shandwick therefore built Voltaren’s first U.S. website –

Research among arthritis patients and The Arthritis Foundation informed the site’s two-fold user experience strategy, which was based around:

  • Consumer-centric functionality and content: Accessibility features which circumvented users’ potential finger pain and immobility were built into the website. These included voice search, a voice enabled chatbot, large tap targets, scalable font sizes, and the ability to view hands-free content via videos and head gesture scroll education. Key pages of the site were built as Accelerated Mobile Pages to ensure that they would show up in mobile-first search engines, and would have a quicker page load time. The search-optimised content was focussed on the effects of arthritis during three key life moments — work, social and family life. Empowering and empathetic advice, support and research was offered for each stage.
  • Product education and clear paths to purchase: The site also included details on Voltaren’s product benefits, testimonials and reviews to prove efficacy and usage directions. Samples and coupons were available for users who wanted to trial the product.

The site was launched in two phases – pre product launch and at product launch. The pre-launch version was built to create awareness and anticipation around product availability before Voltaren was available on shelves. Anticipation for the launch was driven via earned, shopper, eCommerce, expert and search efforts which drove consumers directly to the website or encouraged organic search. Users were given a pre-order incentive of 100% of profits donated to the Arthritis Foundation per product.

The launch version of the site featured more advice and support-based content, full branding, couponing, sampling, reviews, purchase capabilities and the voice-enabled chatbot.

Across both phases, first party data was collected in order to personalise content for users and build a CRM program which offered ongoing support and maintained consideration for Voltaren between purchase cycles. The data was collected via newsletter sign ups, pre-orders, coupons/offers and sample requests. This approach also enabled GSK to funnel data to Amazon for look-alike audience retargeting.


During the site’s first six months, 61,000 users opted into the CRM program. The conversion rate was 16%.

Product pre-orders resulted in the highest one-week total sales of any brand sold through the Shoppable checkout function.

Voltaren was ranked first in the External Analgesics Category within three weeks of launch and first among doctor recommended topical pain relief brands.

The Arthritis Foundation recognised as the US’ first arthritis-friendly website and provided accreditation on the site.


  • 2021 Smarties North America – Innovation, Gold
  • 2021 CHPA Self-Care Marketing Awards – Best Digital Campaign
  • 2021 13th Annual Shorty Awards – Health & Medical, Gold