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October 30, 2015 Bob Ehrlich0
Bob Ehrlich
“We are entering the prime of the DTC era..”
-Bob Ehrlich

Yes, DTC is 30 years old, not 18 as some say, thinking it started in 1997 after FDA liberalized television regulations. The FDA started to allow it in 1985 after lifting the moratorium on doing prescription drug ads. DTC spending was at a trickle in the late 1980’s and started to take off with a print boom in the early 1990’s.

In 1991 spending was only $55 million but steadily grew through 1996 to $595 million. Most was in print but some branded television reminder ads also started to appear. The FDA recognized the folly of allowing drug companies to state the brand name on television without allowing the indication. Consumers saw television ads screaming Claritin, Claritin, Claritin without mentioning what it was intended to treat. Drug companies used print to tell what it was for, and TV reminders became the Hamburger Helper of brand name awareness to supplement the full story told in print.

In 1997, FDA issued a guidance allowing drug companies to do branded with indication television without being forced to scroll the whole package insert. This led to the feasibility of the 60 second ad we know and love today. The spending floodgates opened rising steadily each year to reach over $5 billion in 2006.

Then the spending started declining steadily to the mid $3 billion level by 2013 largely due to big brands going off patent and a slow down of new drug launches. Some industry experts felt DTC could be on the outs. Some drug company executives spoke out against it saying it has caused image issues, and DTC was threatened with moratoriums, tax penalties, mandatory pre-clearance. For the past three years we have seen a strong rebound driven by many new brands heavily using DTC. We could see $5 billion again very soon.

So why does a 30 year old industry still feel so unsettled? What still needs to be learned? Are we now all experts or still relative novices? DTC, unfortunately, will always be unsettled. This is because many influential people in government, medicine, consumer watchdog groups, the media and insurance dislike it. The arguments are many and we all know them. DTC overstates benefits, it raises prices, takes money from R&D, causes doctors to waste time explaining drugs seen on ads, and creates demand for over treatment.

Given the drug companies are on the presumptive Democratic nominee’s enemies list, DTC will be unsettled for the foreseeable future. Thirty years of advertising has not mellowed the critics. Threats to DTC will remain a fact of life from outright bans, moratoriums on new drug advertising, forced reporting of ad expenditures versus research, taxes on advertising, restrictive FDA policy, public pressure and a media quick to vilify drug companies.

Is there now a marketing maturity through accepted principles and understanding how best to do DTC advertising? I would say we have a come along way since the early 1990’s but still have a ways to go to reach maturity. Health care is such a dynamic industry and changing in consumer behavior and technology faster than we can absorb. We all know how social media exploded while FDA was puzzled how to regulate 2015 media with 1970’s regulations. We have gotten great experience making television and print ads, are getting good at point of care media, and have volumes of good ROI data. Our DTC marketers are no longer pulled from the detail forces of drug companies, and most have solid consumer advertising backgrounds.

The next five years will create massive opportunities for DTC marketers. We have the multicultural explosion still barely recognized in DTC advertising. We have Internet spending lagging other industries but has become the main source of health information. We have consumers much more involved in how to spend their increasingly higher health care co-pays. We have a government adding millions of people to health care insurance. We have a shortage of doctors to see patients, getting less time with each patient meaning they need more help explaining treatment options to patients.

We also have a technology explosion in health records, health trackers, and other fitness wearables. We are seeing the start of remote medicine, allowing diagnosis and treatment online. We see an explosion of retail medicine through mini-clinics. We can get vaccines at our supermarkets. The consumer expects medicine to be convenient and reasonably priced.

DTC will be a part of all these trends and although television will still be a big part of most media plans, new approaches will be evaluated, tested and added to DTC media. At thirty, we can say we are entering the prime of the DTC era and our experts will need to stay busy making sense of the many forces shaping consumer advertising.

A few years ago some in our industry, the media, and in medicine were predicting the death of DTC. Instead it has resumed a strong growth trend and we have escaped a premature death. DTC works well and drug makers recognize it. There is no reason to think DTC will not celebrate 40, 50, and beyond. I am at 20 years in DTC and look forward to many more.

October 28, 2015 Eric Talbot0

Spend enough time with children and you will learn the difference between hearing and listening. You can tell kids to clean up until you are blue in the face without even a turn of their head, but whisper ice cream and they come running. This is the difference between reaching your audience and connecting with them.

With children it is easy to tell which messages are connecting. If the room is still a disaster, your message did not connect; when there is a line in front of you for ice cream, this is a sign you got their attention.

Talbot-Oct2015-ArtworkGetting the consumers’ attention is not all that different than children. People react to what is of interest to them, in psychology the term for this is salience.[i] As suggested by Max Sutherland & Alice K. Sylvester in Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer, one way advertisers can gain prominence in the minds of consumers is through repetition. The issue here is there is a difference between reach and frequency, and salience.

The key to connecting with your audience is about identifying the insights that make people feel as if you are speaking directly to them. To this point, veteran marketer Graciela Eleta says, “Great insights are not about adding more factual data or reasons for buying your brand. Finding a great insight is like having an ‘aha’ moment; it’s about unearthing a belief that unlocks consumer’s hearts & minds; one that says ‘this brand understands me and my life’.”

While making a connection is critical for all brands and all consumers, it is even more pronounced when reaching out to multicultural audiences. It is for this reason that Lisa Valtierra, an awarding winning pharmaceutical marketer says, “With a multicultural audience, whether you are talking about the Hispanic, African American, or LGBT segments, it is obvious when they are part of your plan from the start or just an afterthought.” This is why she ensures all creative begins with insights relevant to her target audience as opposed to adapting something from the general market.

It is the presence of consumer insights that explains why two brands with similar executions can perform differently. Unlike with children and ice cream, assessing the creative connect with consumers can be more challenging. This is because a rich marketing mix makes it hard to know which message is working or not.

Creative testing is a standard means of assessment. However, it is based on self-reported feedback of participants. With self-reporting there is potential for participants to give socially acceptable responses. Also referred to as the Hawthorne Effect, this is when people modify or improve an aspect of their response as a result of being observed.[ii]

If only we could understand what the consumers were thinking and not just telling us, it would be a game changer. The good news is that we can to some degree. Hans Berger, a German psychiatrist, was the first to record brain waves in the 1920s, having invented the electroencephalogram (EEG). Today, market researchers are incorporating the use of biometric monitoring tools, such as the EEG and eye tracking, in their studies to understand the unspoken responses of consumers.

Working together Nielsen and Univision, SMG Multicultural set out to try and understand Millennials. The work focused on the bi-lingual Millennials reaction to language and the cultural context of messaging. Using a combination of EEG and eye tracking, the study was able to determine that not only the language but the context in which it is delivered impacts message receptivity and drives greater emotional engagement and memory activation.

The problem with using tools such as EEGs has been cost, but this is changing. Cerora, a new company from Bethlehem, PA, is about to make brain monitoring more accessible. Developed to help with early detection of concussions, the Cerora Borealis multimodal biosensor solution is a single lead EEG brainwave sensor that wirelessly transmits data to a tablet or laptop. What this means is with a specialized headband collecting brainwaves and sending results to a tablet, market researchers now have an easy to use and affordable means of understanding what consumers are thinking.

Just because a piece of creative works with one audience does not mean it will work with another. As Lisa Valtierra has identified, the key to success starts with understanding to whom you are speaking. Be focused on who your audience is, what you want to tell them, and how you want them to feel. Keeping these principals in mind and leveraging the tools available today to understand consumers, you will be on your way to making a creative connection.



[i] Max Sutherland & Alice K. Sylvester: Advertising and the Mind of the Consumer.

[ii] McCarney R, Warner J, Iliffe S, van Haselen R, Griffin M, Fisher P; Warner; Iliffe; Van Haselen; Griffin; Fisher (2007).

October 28, 2015 Brenda Molloy5

Molloy-Oct2015-ArtworkEditor’s Note: DTC Perspectives asked a leading creative expert to review current DTC ads for our Creative Assessment issue of DTC in Focus. OPDIVO and BELSOMRA were her standouts. Read what Brenda Molloy has to say about why these ads made her take special notice.

It’s necessary now more than ever for commercials to stand out from the crowd. The ability to cherry-pick what we watch, to fast-forward through commercials, and sometimes to not be exposed to paid media at all, means that if we want our clients to invest their marketing dollars in TV, they’re going to need a good story to tell. And it’s got to be different.

OPDIVO’s Longer Life

I was stopped in my tracks when I first saw this commercial. I watched silently, quickly hit the rewind button, and watched it again. And then I emailed a colleague who I knew was still up to see if they had seen it, too. We ended up sharing a banter of emails about how “groundbreaking” it was and how exciting it was to see a spot like this – not to mention the emotional pull it had, and admittedly, some tears shed.

Getting excited over pharma spots doesn’t often happen, but this time it was different. The OPDIVO commercial stands out, mostly because of what it is about: advanced squamous, non-small cell lung cancer. A cancer with not a great survival rate; this is the first time in years that there are advancements in this type of cancer. And, they are claiming, you have a chance to live longer because of it! That’s damn exciting to me.

In a category like lung cancer, you need to come across as authentic, and that’s what this spot is. It opens with dramatic music, panning over a cityscape as the sun rises. Cliché? Yes, but it works; this is huge after all. As the VO announces the big news for patients living with this type of lung cancer, copy is projected on buildings and integrated into the environment. It’s done very effectively and adds to the drama as the story unfolds with multiple people (stopped in their tracks, too) staring up at the words with their loved ones. They also did a nice job of integrating the OPDIVO icon (an exclamation point) into the environment for the latter part of the spot. Subtle, but showing the excitement and the big news. I wasn’t even bothered by the almost 40-second fair balance, because I was so drawn to seeing them with hope and life left to live. And perhaps one of the most compelling parts of this commercial is in the last six seconds. It’s where BMS thanks the doctors and patients who participated in the clinical trial. Now that’s pretty groundbreaking, too.


BELSOMRA’s Cats and Dogs

In a category that has been around for a while, do we really need another sleep aid? Luckily BELSOMRA has a different story to tell. It works differently than the other sleep aids by turning down Wake mechanisms in the brain, so Sleep can happen. But it’s going to have to look different too.

The concept of personifying Wake and Sleep with a dog and a cat is brilliant, and the Brief must have been spot on. The visual storytelling is engaging, as you see the woman having her Sleep in the beginning (represented by a white cat), but then Sleep disappears. She searches for Sleep, only to find it being disturbed by Wake, the dog. I love the interaction between them all and how she ultimately puts Wake into the little BELSOMRA bed on the floor while Sleep gets to hop into the woman’s bed. The animation of the two “animals” is superb. The movements of both creatures really take on the characteristics of a cat and a dog as they prance, pace, and walk throughout the commercial. Sleep looks more vulnerable and cute, and Wake looks a bit more rambunctious. He is, after all, keeping the woman up at night.

The fair balance is pretty heavy, so it’s good being distracted by the “animals” while the woman goes about her day with Wake interacting with her a little more (doing what dogs do), while Sleep lays a bit low in the background (like cats do). The film quality is absolutely gorgeous. The beautiful musical score throughout the spot sounds like a whimsical rendition of Smetana’s Die Moldau that keeps me humming it long after the commercial is over.

The commercial comes to a close like a nice fairytale where everyone is where they need to be. And, while this spot seems pretty polarizing when we talk about it around the water cooler, I think we can all agree that it has the stopping power to stand apart from the competition.

October 28, 2015 admin1

“Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things.” – Theodore Levitt, author of Innovation in Marketing

Creative assessment in pharma is the ability to generate and evaluate new, varied, and unique ideas to achieve innovative approaches. Flexibility, originality, fluency, elaboration, and brainstorming are only a few of the factors connected to this tool. It involves finding new ways, making unusual associations, and seeing unexpected solutions. This technique uncovers difficulties, issues, gaps in information, and missing elements followed by formulating hypotheses about characteristics, evaluating, and testing guesses, and then, finally, communicating results. By applying the Innovation Styles Model to pharma, novel methods stimulate curiosity and promote divergences that bring about successful outcomes.

Innovation Styles Model

Visioning, Modifying, Exploring and Experimenting are four distinctive strategies included in the Innovation Styles Model that reveal how to approach new methods, ideas or products in pharma.

  1. DiPersio-Oct2015-Artwork1Visioning forms a mental image of the ideal future. Specifically, original ideas about the future are developed through intuition trailed by facts that are gathered to support those concepts. The long-term outcome is a clear future impression. Visioning endorses innovation by crafting the big picture and presenting certain direction over a length of time. This strategy encourages commitment and provides an impetus for an expansive vision.
  1. Modifying refines and optimizes what occurred previously. Priorities for improvement are established through facts and then intuition allows the entire picture to surface. A specific short-term goal is optimized and achieved. Modifying upholds innovation by adding to what predecessors have accomplished without developing anything new. This strategy also motivates a group to concentrate on realistic, short-term success.
  1. Exploring discovers new and interesting possibilities. Assumptions are questioned with intuition and new options are discovered. Hypotheses and insights are supported by ascertained facts. Exploring searches for unusual breakthroughs and challenges to uncover sole perspectives. This strategy is enthusiastic and hopeful under vague conditions.
  1. Experimenting combines and tests many exclusive groupings. Leverage points are identified with facts and then meaning is realized using intuition. New combinations expose strengths and weaknesses. Experimenting detects ways to overcome barriers, assimilates the ideas of many people, and generates new notions to makes decisions. This strategy tests and formulates new concepts in a detailed manner and provides organized methods to take risks in increments.

Practical Applications of Creative Assessment in Pharma


Strategic Planning

IDiPersio-Oct2015-Artwork3mproving core competencies, emphasizing cost control, focusing on comparative effectiveness, and elevating market access are part of a new strategic planning process. Payers, such as private insurance plans, pharmacy benefits managers, governments, and employers, have moved to the forefront of the pharma industry. They now strongly desire information about drug safety and efficacy to compare drug cost effectiveness to alternative treatments. In the past, determining how much payers would pay for drugs was a major challenge for marketers. However, most recently economically justifying and identifying the intrinsic value of a certain drug is a more important challenge.

R&D and New Products

DiPersio-Oct2015-Artwork4Creative ways are now engaged to capture treatment benefit through subjective research. These practices demonstrate full product value to patients, regulators, and payers. Patients visually express disease experience with mood boards using a collage of images and/or text that represents their emotions and thoughts with drawings or online platforms such as Pinterest. People receiving medical care also utilize body mapping to indicate the location on their body where they experience signs of disease and pain. Patients tell their story in video diaries, often times using smart phones to point out their disease experience in real time. In prior years, face-to-face interviews and focus groups were sufficient, and drug developers relied on merely clinical outcomes. Nevertheless, currently patients recognize the significance of comprehending and collecting subjective research about patient attitudes, preferences, and experiences.

Work Process Improvement

DiPersio-Oct2015-Artwork5Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing allow pharma to predict and eradicate errors which boost operational efficiency and increase the chance of quality products and compliance, as opposed to relying on end-process testing. These techniques also optimize resources, control inventory, reduce waste and errors, improve customer service and change the market entirely. They identify and remove the causes of defects while minimizing variability in manufacturing and business methods. These tools employ empirical, statistical methods so that a certain group of people materialize as experts in these methods and become an integral part of the infrastructure of the organization. Presently, profits are declining due to greater competition emanating from generic brands and an increase in errors within the manufacturing process. On the other hand, Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing offer the possibility of saving pharma an estimated $90 billion dollars internationally.

In conclusion, creativity develops fresh ideas, methods or products while innovation puts them into action. Combining creativity and innovation builds an assessment technique that effects positive and profitable change when the Innovation Styles Model is applied to the pharma industry. The practical application of the four unique strategies of the model (Visioning, Modifying, Exploring, and Experimenting) to the strategic planning process, R&D and new products, and work process improvement creates a departure that broadens the reach of pharma and acts as a trajectory to advance the industry worldwide.



  • “How Does Creative Thought Differ from Critical Thought? Macquarie University. (2008)
  • McClearn, C. and Croisier, T. “Big Pharma’s Market Access Mission.” Deloitte University Press. (2013)
  • Meysner, S., Kitchen, H. and Humphrey, L. “Why Creative Research Methods are Essential in Pharmaceutical Outcomes Research.” Abacus International. Decision Resource Group. (2013)
  • “Six Sigma and Its Use in Pharmaceuticals.” Six Sigma Online. Aveta Business Institute. (2014)
  • “Understanding and Applying Innovation Styles(R) for Insight, Versatility and Impact.” Global Creativity Corp. (2007)

October 23, 2015 Bob Ehrlich1
Bob Ehrlich
“The industry needs to be better prepared to defend premium pricing…”
-Bob Ehrlich

Recently Opdivo from Bristol-Myers started television advertising for its advanced stage lung cancer indication. What Opdivo does is work with the immune system to help fight the lung cancer. Clinical studies show survival versus chemo of 9.2 months vs. 6 months among half the patients taking it.

The ad, which is on the Opdivo web site, says “it’s not every day something this big comes along.” This voiceover is followed by an image on a skyscraper saying “a chance to live longer.” The ad continues with supers imposed on other buildings on living longer.

The cost of Opdivo is quite high at over $100k a year. The survival benefit is clinically significant. Survival, however, is measured in months not years. The ad tells the survival benefit with a super. So we have a drug with a significant benefit and a very high cost to the insurer. While the patient and their families certainly want the extra months of survival, the insurance companies are going to be reluctant to pay that much for those few extra months.

The ad will be highly effective in getting patients to ask their doctor about Opdivo. Insurance companies and government critics will surely hate this ad because it increases demand and it costs the payers a lot. I can hear Bernie and Hilary shriek with indignation that patients are given hope by the ad, only to be turned down by insurers over the high cost.

The use of biologics is growing and many genomic cures are on the horizon. The recently launched Hep C drugs Solvadi and Harvoni cure this terrible life threatening disease. They cost about $80k for a course of therapy and have created the same angst among payers. Both drugs used DTC effectively in raising consumer awareness.

The use of DTC for drugs costing tens of thousands a year is rising. The backlash over price will make DTC for these drugs a target for legislative and payer critics. Drug companies need to be ready for the outrage. Consumers really do not know from drug ads what the cost will be for a new treatment. Advertised drugs have widely varied costs per pill or dose from a few dollars a pill for cholesterol drugs to a thousand a pill for Hep C. The commercials do not address price and consumers face potential sticker shock.

Most consumers have an idea what that new car, new TV, or new box of detergent will cost. Drugs are somewhat unique in that pricing is opaque. Watching the Opdivo ad gives no clue the drug is 100 times more costly than a cholesterol drug. Drug companies have price supports through compassionate use programs for the poor, but those are not used broadly. Insurers hate these DTC ads because it puts pressure on them from consumers to cover life extending drugs. Once consumers complain, legislators enter to cajole insurers to cover the drug.

Opdivo and other cancer drugs have every right to advertise. What they offer is life altering. They should, however, expect legislative and consumer pushback over advertising a benefit that is expensive. While many patients will get the drug covered, many will not. The lack of consumer price information is an important strategic issue in my opinion and unique within the drug industry. The industry needs to be better prepared to defend premium pricing and explain to consumers why some drugs cost thousands a month. DTC for those drugs will motivate price critics to scream for price controls and DTC bans.

October 16, 2015 Bob Ehrlich0
Bob Ehrlich
“Engagement is changing beyond..awareness advertising…”
-Bob Ehrlich

With rising DTC expenditures it is clear all media segments have new opportunities for a piece of a larger pie. I have always been media agnostic in my job as advisor, publisher, conference organizer and writer of DTC columns. I know all media has its place in the marketing plan. Traditional media such as television, magazines, radio, and newspapers are still critical to drug advertising success.

One area, though, seems to be on the verge of exploding in use and should fuel growth in DTC spending. That area is reaching the consumer through their physician’s office, pharmacy, clinic, hospital, or remotely through smart phones or customized health tracking devices.

Most consumers think most about their drug when it is being prescribed, filled, or first used. Engaging patients through education at all of these points is critical for success. Engagement is changing beyond just awareness advertising at these points. While awareness advertising in physician offices or pharmacies is critical, new technologies are allowing more more robust interactions between physician, pharmacist and patient.

Drug companies are working to understand how technology can be used to help doctors and pharmacists educate patients. Of course drug companies are most interested in those professionals writing more of their drug. The two biggest technologies that will affect drug company marketing are electronic health records (EHR) and mobile device health apps.

While EHR is being rapidly expanded and not yet widely used as an advertising medium, over time drug companies will see major opportunities to partner with EHR companies. Doctors want to provide clear, concise benefit and risk information to their patients. Piggybacking on the EHR system with good drug information will be key in the future. Doctors will be using push newsletters, emails, texts, robo-calls more in the future. Drug companies will be involved in underwriting these efforts especially as it relates to persistency.

Mobile consultation and diagnosis through wearable trackers will be common place in the near future. People with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart conditions, and other illnesses can be monitored real time by their health providers. Imagine the possibilities for drug company partnerships in helping doctors monitor patients. Ensuring proper adherence to a prescribed medication is good for the provider, patient, and drug maker.

There is still enormous potential for growth in awareness advertising at traditional point of care locations. More offices are joining these networks and more exam and waiting rooms are being added. I expect more consolidation between media suppliers so they have a broader reach. Drug marketers and their agencies want the ability to reach desired specialties without dealing with fragmented buying. The growth of retail medicine through mini clinics is also offering new locations for patient education media.

From what I hear from the media companies in the point of care space sales are doing very well. What these media companies need to do is make it easier for drug marketers to buy in scale, track ROI, and learn how to work in concert with the providers to engage patients beyond awareness advertising.

October 9, 2015 Bob Ehrlich0
Bob Ehrlich
“DTC should survive no matter who wins the election…”
-Bob Ehrlich

I am concerned. DTC is under attack again by politicians and anti-drug company activists. While an outright ban is highly unlikely because of first amendment protections, it is possible to regulate DTC more and/or use tax policy to restrict its use.

The FDA, under a Clinton or Sanders presidency, would likely be told to do what it can to make advertising more difficult. That 1997 guidance allowing television to be done in 60 seconds was a liberalization of the interpretation of the rules. Does FDA have the authority to go back to the pre-1997 interpretation that required a full scroll of the package insert? Does free speech make that return to the restrictive old days unconstitutional?

While I would expect President Clinton or Sanders to try to ban DTC through FDA, I doubt the courts would allow it. Clinton and Sanders can alternatively ask FDA impose guidances to make advertising more difficult under the guise that consumers are overstating advertised drug effectiveness. They could then require more discussion of non-drug alternatives or increased discussion of comparative effectiveness to non-branded drugs.

Tax policy is a real threat by making drug ads a non-deductible expense. Of course, such a move would also restrict commercial speech as it would only apply to the drug industry. Courts have a dim view of government restriction of commercial speech. I doubt the advertising lobby would lose such a fight. You never know, however, until a law is enacted and tested in the courts.

Another threat to DTC may be the industry itself surrendering to pressure. Some drug executives may decide they do not want to deal with the critics any longer and just stop using DTC. They can decide to use other less public means of promotion. Of course it might be hard to stop DTC because it works so well for many brands. Drug executives have seen many brands succeed because of widespread awareness ads. Drug CEO’s may, however, surrender DTC in exchange for no Medicare price negotiation, no foreign drug imports, or patent life extensions. Most CEO’s are not consumer marketers and have no inherent love of consumer advertising.

My net is DTC should survive no matter who wins the election. It may, however, be faced with an FDA pressured to make DTC harder to execute. That could mean more onerous rules and more delays in approval. It could also mean more “voluntary” moratoria on advertising new drugs as a condition of approval. DTC spending continues to recover, and 2015 could be $5 billion again and higher spending is always erroneously blamed by critics for causing rising drug prices.

I urge my drug marketing colleagues and their agencies to take threats to DTC very seriously. Drug companies are easy targets and Congress is known for taking the easy path. Finding a way to punish branded drug companies by restricting advertising would be politically popular. Combine a pliant Congress with President Bernie or Hilary and watch DTC be placed on the endangered species list.

Anyone involved in DTC should make sure their representatives in Congress hear why restricting DTC advertising is a bad idea. The total spent on drug advertising is only about 1.5-2% of drug sales in the United States. That money, if no longer used for DTC, would not lower drug prices, despite the myth that drug companies price high to recover their DTC investment. Sales would in fact be lower if DTC were banned, and that would lead to cuts in research, not increases.

October 2, 2015 Bob Ehrlich0
Bob Ehrlich
“Jublia marketers have done an excellent job…”
-Bob Ehrlich

Jublia, from Valeant for toenail fungus, has made heavy use of the celebrity route in its advertising. First, they used tennis legend John McEnroe and now are adding talk show host Mario Lopez to the mix. Most of us remember Mario as Slater on Saved by the Bell.The Jublia ads are light in tone and I equate the ads to what an OTC drug might do. After all, toenail fungus is not cancer, so the ads can use a lighter approach.

I have mixed feelings about humor in health ads. While toenail fungus is not prostate cancer (Valeant also makes prostate cancer drug Provenge), it is not funny to those who have it. The thickening and yellowing of a toenail can be embarrassing and physically uncomfortable. When I was marketing antacids in the 1980’s, many ads tried humor. What patients said to us was there is nothing funny about acid reflux and burning the esophagus. So we proceeded with caution on our ads regarding making light of a painful condition.

My reservations about humor aside, the Jublia campaign is very good. The ads are memorable and get their message across clearly. They are in your face ads type ads, shouting their benefit out through the little animated toe icon and the celebrity presenter. Sometimes ads bordering on obnoxious are highly effective. Mr. Whipple from the please don’t squeeze the Charmins ads was a much hated character but the ad worked.

Jublia needs to compete against the many anti-fungal OTC’s. Therefore as an Rx they need to get consumers comfortable switching to an Rx alternative. That means dealing with consumer concerns about safety. While Jublia has few side effects as it is a topical versus a pill, consumers need to feel it is both effective and safe before they request it. The lighter tone does aid in making consumers feel the product is not something to fear.

I assume the celebrity campaign will continue and more will be added beyond McEnroe and Lopez. The drug has sales of about $450 million so there is plenty of profit to be invested in advertising. Jublia marketers have done an excellent job navigating that difficult area of being an Rx in an OTC dominated world of toenail fungus.