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September 30, 2020 Bob Ehrlich1

A very interesting DTC television ad, from AbbVie’s Humira, focuses on current users of their injectable pen. Humira users have sometimes complained about the pain as they inject, described as burning pain. Humira announced a reformulation which removed the citrate ingredient which was causing the pain. Is this a major improvement? Citrate was used as a buffer to keep the active ingredients stable. A new buffer was found that reduced pain.

I went on YouTube to see what patients said about the new formula because I was unfamiliar with the pain problem after injection. Humira has numerous indications for Crohn’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Psoriasis, and other categories. It is touching to see patients crying with joy as they demonstrate the pain free injection after many years of dreading the pain. Obviously having a pain free experience will help with retention and compliance. The testimonials on YouTube were compelling. One involved a young pregnant woman who demonstrated her first citrate free injection. She said for years she feared the searing pain which she had to endure every two weeks. She injected the new version, counted to ten, and then cried because she felt no pain.

The DTC ad announces to current users that Humira was inspired by its users and eliminated the citrate from the formula as well as cutting the volume of liquid in half. Both removing the citrate and injecting less results in less pain. They also are using a thinner needle also a benefit in reducing pain. Clearly, AbbVie heard numerous complaints over the years about pain and responded. With any drug, reformulating is a complex process with numerous regulatory hurdles.

The DTC campaign, introduced in April in a 60-second ad, is a well-executed announcement ad. Basically, it says Humira listened and changed the formula to reduce pain without reducing efficacy. Given the pain problem, the DTC ad had a very receptive audience. Announcing a citrate-free version was sure to get user attention. Humira wanted to reassure customers that there were several steps taken to improve the drug, but they could still count on Humira to focus on treating their disease.

The creative was similar to many DTC ads. The vignettes showed active people dancing, skating, camping, and being with their families. What was most important regarding the reformulation was communicated using voice over and supers. It was important to raise awareness for the new formulation because a new prescription is required, so patient and physician action was needed to switch over. The announcement portion was about 25 seconds and the next 22 seconds was fair balance. The final 13 seconds reinforced the benefits and mentioned patient assistance programs.

Based on what I saw on YouTube, use of patient testimonials would be compelling DTC should Humira want to extend the campaign. Humira has spent, according to MediaRadar, about $60 million on this campaign to date. New and improved is not common in drug advertising because few drugs can afford to tinker with their drug both in development time and money. Here, a major improvement was undertaken that changed the lives of many patients.

Bob Ehrlich,
DTC Perspectives, Inc.

September 24, 2020 admin0

After consistently seeing an underrepresentation of non-white patients in clinical research, Genentech decided to dig deeper as to why there is such enrollment inequity. According to an announcement from their website, the pharmaceutical manufacturer “undertook a landmark study to elevate the perspectives of these medically disenfranchised individuals and reveal how this long-standing inequity impacts their relationships with the healthcare system as a whole.”

Interviews with 2,207 patients were conducted to learn about their direct experiences with the healthcare system. Of the research participants, “1,001 [were] from the general population and 1,206 [were those] who qualified as ‘medically disenfranchised’ from four communities: Black, Latinx, LGBTQ+, and low socioeconomic status (Low SES).” Research findings unveiled a significant lack of trust, with patients often feeling that they had been treated unequally and unfairly – or worse yet, that the system was working against them.

Genentech revealed that approximately just one-quarter to one-third of medically disenfranchised patients agree that all patients are treated fairly and equally (27% Black, 27% Latinx, 34% LGBTQ+, 23% low SES). Meanwhile, nearly half (49%) of the general population agree with that statement. Furthermore, “52% of medically disenfranchised patients believe that the healthcare system is rigged against them.”

As a result of these experiences, medically disenfranchised populations often delay, interrupt, or discontinue seeking care – often “for fear that they were not understood.” Additionally, the lack of trust has also translated to as many as one-in-three medically disenfranchised patients opting to not participate in clinical trials, vaccinations, and testing for medical conditions.

Genentech plans to continue investigating this situation further and progress their program efforts to help combat this issue. The study’s announcement concluded with an inspirational message for the healthcare industry’s growth and improvement by stating:

“[T]o address healthcare disparity, we must address issues of trust in the healthcare system. We must build bridges to medically disenfranchised patients to make them feel valued, respected, and understood. We must give them reasons to believe in the healthcare system.

“We know we cannot do this alone. Only through a broad coalition of industry, government, NGO, and community stakeholders will we make the changes necessary to ensure the healthcare system works for everyone. This research is the latest step in our efforts toward that goal, and we hope it serves as a call-to-action for candid discussion, proactive collaboration, and meaningful action.”

September 24, 2020 admin0

The FDA announced this week the creation of the Digital Health Center of Excellence for the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH). Its establishment is another step in the agency’s goal for modernizing digital health policies, regulatory approaches, and the advancement of digital health technology – such as mobile health devices, Software as a Medical Device (SaMD), and wearables. The Digital Health Center of Excellence plans to foster and accelerate innovation via strategic partnerships, providing increased awareness, understanding, and access of digital health technologies, knowledge, and tools for stakeholders. The group will also help streamline and coordinate work across the agency to further ensure consistent application of policies and oversight.

Bakul Patel has been named as its first director. Patel, who joined the agency in 2008, was previously “leading regulatory and scientific efforts related to digital health devices at the FDA since 2010.”

FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. stated in the news release, “Today’s announcement marks the next stage in applying a comprehensive approach to digital health technology to realize its full potential to empower consumers to make better-informed decisions about their own health and provide new options for facilitating prevention, early diagnosis of life-threatening diseases, and management of chronic conditions outside of traditional care settings. The Digital Health Center of Excellence will provide centralized expertise and serve as a resource for digital health technologies and policy for digital health innovators, the public, and FDA staff.” Jeff Shuren, M.D., J.D., director of CDRH, added that this Digital Health Center will “amplify the digital health work that is already being done and building upon years of work at the agency. In the last several years, we have established partnerships internally and externally to coordinate digital health activities and to promote the consistency of regulatory policy while continuing to innovate in our regulatory approaches.”

September 24, 2020 admin0

It was announced this week that FCB Health has selected Dr. Sommer Bazuro, PhD to be their Chief Medical Officer across the US and EU offices. Dr. Bazuro steps into this newly-created position with extensive medical communications experience. Having been with the agency for the past 11 years, she most recently worked at ProHealth, an FCB Health Network company which she started and focused on the medical communications side of the industry. A few years ago, she transitioned to promotional advertising as well.

Her current work has her continuing to lead the New York medical team, managing the EU medical strategists, and also “developing solutions to address the disparity in recruitment of people of color into clinical trials.” The medical team supports both DTC and HCP new business opportunities.

“I’m thrilled to take on this new role, as this is an opportunity to elevate our diverse, best-in-class medical talent even further,” Dr. Bazuro said in the news announcement. “I look forward to ensuring best practices are uniformly implemented across all of our offices in support of our amazing clients, as they continue to bring life-changing therapies to patients in desperate need.”

Dr. Bazuro “holds a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, a BS-Research Intensive in Cell and Molecular Biology from Yale University, and she conducted her postdoctoral research fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.”

September 24, 2020 Bob Ehrlich0
As we men age, the prostate gland grows about 2-2.5% a year. Eventually, most senior men get BPH which is a benign prostate condition that can lead to problems urinating as the enlarged prostate inhibits flow.

So, what can men do to alleviate the problem? There are prescription drugs and surgical alternatives where the prostate can be reduced in size. Surgery is invasive and most men fear any cutting done in that area. There are laser, cryogenic, and ultrasound treatments that also can reduce prostate size. Those techniques also can have side effect issues.
Enter Urolift which is a non traditional surgical alternative. Teleflex is the company that produces Urolift, as well as other devices for cardiac, respiratory care, and emergency care.  

Urolift has begun a multimedia DTC campaign to announce their alternative approach to treating BPH. The television ad is quite memorable. We see a presenter on a big stage talking to men asking if they have problems with frequency in urination, feeling like the bladder never fully empties. Behind him on a big screen are images of dripping pipes. After about 15 seconds stating the problem he announces a solution, Urolift. We see firehoses at full blast, a fountain spraying all representing improved flow.

The presenter then tells us that Urolift is a minimally invasive procedure that involves no cutting and preserves sexual function. Sexual function is a significant risk with prostate surgery as the nerves that men need for erections are sometimes cut or damaged.

What I really like in this ad is the benefits are clearly identified while not overly complicating the message. We don’t know exactly what Urolift is or how it works based on the ad. For that you can go to their website which is very clear on how the device is implanted. Basically, Urolift is a set of clamps that pull the prostate away from the urinary tract. The procedure is done in urologists office and recovery is quick.

DTC works when potential customers ask their doctor about the advertised product. DTC works really well when there is a large pool of potential users who are informed about something new to help them. Urolift meets both criteria. The pool of men with BPH is large and Urolift is a novel approach. The good news is that Urolift is covered by Medicare and most private insurance. 

I have no access to the results of the Urolift campaign, but my guess is the ROI is high based on the quality of the ad, the market size, urologist support in endorsing the effectiveness of the procedure, and patients wanting to avoid invasive surgical risks. Good job by Urolift recognizing what type of DTC will motivate patients to initiate physician discussions. The visually rich, simple approach makes the DTC campaign very likely to motivate patients.
Bob Ehrlich,
DTC Perspectives, Inc.

September 19, 2020 Laura Kohler0

Today it’s more important than ever to help ensure that consumers can access and afford their medications. With the emergence of a global pandemic, what strategies and technologies can pharmaceutical manufacturers implement to help simplify and streamline the access process for consumers?

The effectiveness of a pharmaceutical manufacturer’s access and reimbursement support program will have a direct impact on patients’ ability to access and afford their medications. Here are a few examples of difficulties providers and patients have cited:

  • 90% of providers [mentioned] PA-related delays in patient care and 28% reported that such delays have led to serious adverse events for patients
  • Of more than 500 specialty patients surveyed, 60% claimed that they had some difficulty in receiving their first dose of specialty therapy, and 76% reported their personal role in coordinating care activities as “involved” or “very involved” ( Patient and Provider Surveys, 2020)
  • Patients describe the time and effort required to start a specialty therapy as a full-time job – citing upwards of 30 phone calls to various healthcare stakeholders and many hours gathering information to obtain coverage (Simacek KF, et al. The impact of disease-modifying therapy access barriers on people with multiple sclerosis: mixed-methods study. J Med Internet Res. 2018;20(10):e11168)
  • 60% of program enrollment forms are incorrectly completed, resulting in product access and reimbursement program delays (
  • 40% of new prescriptions are not filled because of the time it takes to complete a patient’s Benefits Investigation (BI)/Benefits Verification (BV) or ePrior Authorization (ePA) (

What can pharmaceutical manufacturers do to help ensure patients can access and afford their products in an efficient manner, especially during a global pandemic? Below are six key actions and considerations:

  1. Perform a strategic assessment

What does the program offer, and how does it compare with others in the category and industry? What does “good” look like? How can we improve and streamline the processes? Answers to these and other questions can come through competitive program audits, market research, internal stakeholder and customer needs assessments, and audits of existing resources and enrollment forms.

2. Evaluate and refine branding

Is the program visually simplified for easy recognition by patients and physicians alike? Visual complexity with misaligned branding and resources can impede program identification and equity. To achieve optimal program branding, manufacturers can apply brand values and positioning to create a compelling program name, logo, and campaign. Ultimately, brands need to develop a verbal and visual identity with style guidelines for all stakeholders to follow.

3. Audit and streamline communications

How many different resources have been created over time, and is there consistency in the message? What can we do to simplify the message and streamline the story? By following the patient access journey, manufacturers will be better informed when developing appropriate and effective online communications, including education and awareness resources, and creating or streamlining enrollment forms, reimbursement support tools, and copay and voucher resources.  This approach can also help inform virtual convention planning.

4. Ensure optimal operational program configuration

Who are all the different stakeholders and partners? Are they aligned to the common goal and working like a well-oiled machine, or are there opportunities for improvement and enhancements? Are you leveraging electronic health record (EHR) and Telehealth technology (see Figure 1) to optimize processes as well as access and affordability messaging opportunities? To find answers, manufacturers may want to perform vendor assessments, explore optimal program architecture, and seek ways to automate the BI/BV/PA processes. They may also want to explore how best to integrate software – including the EHR platforms – and aggregate data to help inform broader strategies.

Figure 1.  EHR and Telehealth access and affordability engagement opportunities

5. Gain insights through data and analytics

How is the program performing? Are patients getting their prescriptions filled in a timely manner? What are some of the challenges that need to be addressed? We can get answers to these questions by conducting baseline analytics to start with, defining and measuring performance metrics, integrating and analyzing data, and assessing adherence and outcomes.

6. Ensure all stakeholders are fully educated

How comfortable are your sales and reimbursement reps with talking about access and affordability and your program offerings? What resources can they leverage to help them successfully engage? Maybe an implementation guide can help, along with some virtual training and annotated resources and roadmaps. Do doctors and practice staff understand the full scope of your offering? Does your audience know who to reach out to? Are they aware of all the online resources available to them? Are they aware of your product’s current formulary access? How can we best communicate the access and affordability? What nonpersonal technologies can we leverage for communication and what are the optimal messages in those channels? 

In an era of virtuality and a global pandemic, all of the above become mission-critical to patient access and affordability, and ultimately, to a brand’s success. Understanding the holistic picture and how all these considerations work together will empower physicians to prescribe with confidence, patients to more easily access and afford their medications, and pharmaceutical manufacturers to maximize adoption, preference, and loyalty for their brand.

September 19, 2020 Paul Hayward0

The coronavirus pandemic has altered every facet of our lives. Everyday tasks suddenly became challenging and anything not deemed “essential” came to an abrupt halt. New terms and safety procedures are now part of our daily lives and even the most mundane contact with friends or extended family is accompanied by health and safety measures. But as we approach the reopening of schools and begin to find “normalcy” in pandemic lives, there is another threat that looms for our healthcare system: the impending flu season. The influenza virus, while more studied and known than the novel coronavirus, presents itself with symptoms that are similar to (if not indistinguishable from) COVID-19. This similarity of symptoms will make effective prevention of illness and proper diagnosis of the flu or COVID-19 an even more critical task.

Our healthcare providers are our best line of defense against both of these viruses and offer an authoritative voice in the face of rampant misinformation. And yet, our health system is already under immense strain given the lack of ubiquitous national guidance, the lack of testing, the lack of hospital capacity, and the variety of ways in which COVID-19 is presenting itself in human systems. Luckily, studies show healthcare providers have remained the most trusted group for information throughout the pandemic, and we have every reason to believe this will continue as we approach the 2020-2021 flu season.

As the country prepares for flu season and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, accurate information will be our biggest weapon in the fight against both of these viruses. It will be our job as healthcare marketers to use Point of Care (POC) to relieve some of the stress on physicians and help patients understand what they need to know to stay healthy. 

Tracking the Flu Season 2020

Early prevention, detection, and response are key to preventing the spread of any disease, so POC platforms should leverage their nationwide reach to make patients and providers aware of the tracking site This resource allows individuals to report symptoms in real-time to complement traditional tracking while providing useful information directly to the public. National tracking from multiple sources can help healthcare providers determine the probability of infection by the flu virus and potentially better manage their patient populations.

Patient Education at the Point of Care

Symptoms for the seasonal flu and COVID-19 may be similar, so patient education at the POC is likely the most important thing we can do to help keep our healthcare systems from being overwhelmed. Educating patients and their caregivers about the importance of getting the flu shot, how to spot the differences between the two viruses, and actions to take if someone is experiencing symptoms, are important messages for patients. POC also serves as a great space to remind patients about hygiene protocols that work to stave off both viruses – like washing hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds, refraining from touching eyes or face, wearing masks, social distancing, etc. Lastly, combatting disinformation about masks, remedies, medications, and vaccines will be necessary given the amount of misinformation circulating online. Patient messaging about myths and truths overall will be helpful reminders for those trying to distinguish fact from fiction.

Flu Shot Awareness

The POC channel should inform and support flu shot awareness. As we know, the flu vaccination can provide greatly needed protection from the worst effects of the flu virus, help shield others, and aid in recovery. As a trusted source of information, POC should ensure this message is communicated to patients, as well as information about treatments, when to seek support from your healthcare provider, and how/where to get the vaccine.

For the last several years, Outcome Health has partnered with Unity Consortium to bring their important messages about vaccination and immunization to physician practices and health systems across the country. Judy Klein, President of Unity Consortium, stresses that all adolescents and young adults should get their flu shots to protect themselves, their families and their communities: “It’s more convenient than ever to get vaccinated – at your local pharmacy, clinic or physician office. Pharmacists are now able to administer vaccines to individuals ages three through 18 years old, and physicians are ensuring their offices are a safe and easily accessible place to visit and get vaccinated. This year especially, when our healthcare system is already under such burden and stress due to COVID-19, people must prioritize getting their flu shot.”

Relieving Physician Stress and Burnout 

In today’s COVID-world, every physician practice and health system is under added stress. In fact, in a recent JAMA study, over 50% of healthcare providers reported symptoms of depression and over 70% reported symptoms of distress. We believe the POC should be a place that can support healthcare providers that are serving their patients, so we must use this channel to help relieve physician stress. We can use POC platforms to help manage various diseases and conditions, providing educational and actionable messaging patients may not otherwise get. This will both give patients trusted information and relieve some of the burden on healthcare providers to do this so they can manage treating flu against the backdrop of the pandemic. This support will be especially important in resource-limited settings where there may be a weaker healthcare infrastructure or the one community doctor is the entire healthcare system in that area.

Additionally, now that more healthcare providers are leveraging telehealth solutions, we have the ability to plug into virtual meeting spaces to make these appointment experiences even more valuable. Whether it’s during the wait for an appointment to begin or part of the meeting experience, we can use this digital space to provide information and resources that help patients navigate this year’s flu season. 

As the country battles the ongoing pandemic and prepares for the seasonal flu virus, our role as healthcare marketers has never been more important. We have the opportunity to help ensure our healthcare providers can handle the load from their communities by reaching patients and caregivers with critical information when it is needed most.  

September 17, 2020 Bob Ehrlich1
Bristol Myers Squibb (BMS) has premiered a very interesting combo DTC ad featuring its two immunotherapy drugs Opdivo and Yervoy. The ad is for treatment of Non Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC). What is very interesting is the approach of advertising two drugs in one ad. The FDA approved the combo for first line treatment for NSCLC in May 2020. I am not aware of another DTC campaign for two separate drugs. There are many combo drugs but they are marketed under one brand.

Trying to explain one drug is hard enough, but in this campaign BMS is trying to explain to consumers how the combo is effective versus chemotherapy. They premiered the campaign with an announcement print ad. This is not a visually rich ad, just a text announcement exposing consumers to the new indication. Using major newspapers BMS launched a blitz of their Big News headline “the first and only chemo free combo of 2 immunotherapies.” That was followed up with numerous magazine print titles through the summer months.

In September, BMS premiered its 90-second television ad which is also an announcement oriented ad. The creative approach is to announce the new combo with headline supers followed by the “chance to live longer” theme showing scenes of what that could mean in terms of real life experiences with family. The fair balance, as for all these cancer drugs, is lengthy, taking about 40 seconds. There are about 25 possible side effects mentioned which are recited in about 20 seconds. That lengthy list is normal for these powerful drugs.

With cancer drugs, the key message, which this ad communicates well, is hope. No one expects these ads to really explain much because treating cancer is complex. What the ad is designed to do is get consumers to ask their doctors if their lung cancer treatment could benefit by using this combo. Simply the ad is meant as an initial suggestion to consumers to raise the possibility with their doctor. All DTC ads do this, but some can actually create a more in-depth ad sell in categories more easily understood. 

Doctors don’t usually have a strong preference which statin, dry eye treatment, antihistamine, or insulin pen you use. Your wish is, in many cases, their command as far as writing the drug you mention. In cancer drugs, they very much control what you get and your request will not hold much sway unless it really is the best drug. In this case, the ads provide a basis for discussion if the Opdivo + Yervoy combo has relevance.

The ad’s “Chance to Live Longer” is a powerful message sure to get attention if the viewer has or knows someone with NSCLC. The clinical reality is these drugs can add months, not years, of life. That said, those extra months are precious to patients and loved ones, and this campaign hits the right tone. These ads help create consumer pressure on insurers to cover these expensive drugs, which BMS says is about $100,000 for a course of treatment. The premium price is what allows BMS to get a return on investment on using mass media for a narrow target audience. DTC has been increasingly used for these low incidence diseases as campaigns pay back if just hundreds of incremental patients get the advertised drug. 
Bob Ehrlich
DTC Perspectives, Inc.

September 10, 2020 Bob Ehrlich0
This is a big year for vaccines. The daily mentions of the progress on Covid-19 vaccine development and the push for increased flu vaccine coverage is raising the awareness of vaccines in general. The push from vaccine makers for their existing vaccines is likely to increase this year.

Certainly flu DTC is going to increase as the opportunity to increase sales is there with only about 50% of the population getting vaccinated. The government is sure to add to the DTC mix as they do not want to see flu cases increase along side of Covid.

Glaxo has two vaccines currently using DTC. Both are unbranded. They also do a corporate spot on the value of vaccines in general. The general campaign is multi-media and focuses on life’s moments worth protecting. It explains how vaccines have allowed us to have these moments of enjoying life because vaccines prevent disease. Both TV and print use vignettes of family moments like birthday parties, outdoor hiking, fishing with grandkids, and beach scenes. The one page ad in print has the headline saying Brought to You by Vaccines referring to the moments in the picture below.

Glaxo has two specific disease education campaigns. Shingles vaccine Shingrix, approved in 2017 is used to help prevent the approximately 1 million new cases diagnosed in the US annually. The campaign is multi-media using the line “Shingles can be Whaaat? Prevented.” Both TV and print use the theme. They show people being told about Shingles and responding surprised that this painful condition can be prevented. The campaign is targeted 50+. It is a very simple but effective campaign. Basically, Shingles is painful, is lurking in anyone who had chicken pox but can be prevented. 

The next campaign is for Meningitis B. Again a multi-media campaign is used. The target is parents with teens heading off to college. The latest TV campaign shows teens at prom, on the soccer field, and entering their freshman dorm. The message is that a rare but serious disease, Meningitis B, is possible in affecting teens. It kills 1 in 10 of those afflicted and causes lifelong problems in many who recover. This campaign is emotional and plays on the parental desire to do all they can to protect their kids.

The print campaign is similar to the TV spot. It uses the name of the teen as a headline supered over a picture of the teen. Inside the name is the letter B, highlighted to reinforce the Meningitis B. In print, the Robert execution is used; in TV we see Sabrina, Kimberly, and Robert with the highlighted B.

It is likely that all the Covid and Flu vaccine discussion will lead to general physician patient discussions on what other vaccines are available. The drug makers will be doing ads on the long history of vaccines and how safe they have been. This is needed to encourage the large skeptical population afraid to take vaccines for Covid, Flu, and other diseases. This has been caused by the anti-vaxxer movement and political issues surrounding the Covid warp speed project. 

Expect that once a Covid vaccine has been clinically shown safe and effective, HHS and drug makers will spend lots on DTC convincing us vaccines are safe and effective. All vaccines could benefit from the halo effect of Covid vaccine ads. Given the attention on vaccines, expect all vaccine makers will join the DTC push in late 2020 and 2021. This Covid year has been awful for most Americans, but the silver lining is the expected major investment in vaccine development as Covid will not be the last pandemic threat.
Bob Ehrlich
DTC Perspectives, Inc.

September 2, 2020 Bob Ehrlich0
In my June 24th column I discussed the Ubrelvy campaign. They had a pool of everyday situations at home or work at all times of the day. The “Anytime Anywhere” medicine is the positioning. Coinciding with the start of the US Open tennis tournament, Ubrelvy has engaged Serena Williams to be a spokesperson.

Debuting a television ad with scenes of Serena on the tennis court and working out, Ubrelvy has stayed with the basic theme in the creative. They kept the largely black and white scheme with large headlines in blue. Serena becomes the narrator for the selling message which is the first 22 seconds of the 45-second spot. She comes back to close for the final 8 seconds.

What I like is that the use of Serena does not change the campaign. She is seamlessly inserted without altering the look and feel of the vignette campaign. Of course Serena is the star of this execution, but is shown like the others in past executions struggling to deal with migraines. The illness is what is highlighted not Serena’s tennis accomplishments. This understated use of celebrity is what makes the spot so good. Serena is just like everyone else who struggles with unpredictable migraines.

AbbVie also has a 7-minute interview with Serena on their website detailing her struggle with migraines and her experience with Ubrelvy. The interview is conducted by a physician who makes sure Serena’s comments are on label and are supported by clinical studies. Celebrities have been an issue for some drug companies when they made claims in interviews or PR events without providing fair balance. Here, the physician modifies any statement made by Serena to add fair balance.

The concern with celebrity use is how genuine they appear. Are they just promoting a product for a paycheck or do they have a credible story on why this drug helped them? Serena is used by a number of companies to promote products such snack bars and energy drinks. She also runs a fashion line which she promotes on shopping channels.

In this Ubrelvy ad, she does pass the credibility test. Clearly Serena has a high stress job, and can not afford to let migraines ruin her practice schedule or, worse, come up during a match. The interview on their site adds to the credibility as this is a problem she has had for more than a decade. Since most viewers will only see the television ad, Serena still achieves the sincerity threshold in the 45 seconds.

There are several campaigns that have integrated a celebrity into their standard campaign theme. Cosentyx with Cyndi Lauper and Enbrel with Phil Mickelson have been successful using celebrities as part of but not dominating the campaign. Mixing real patients with a celebrity who also has the disease helps add to the believability of the core message. Serena, Cyndi, and Phil are just like the rest of us and have the same problems. Well, not like the rest of us most of the time, but they can have migraines, psoriasis, or psoriatic arthritis. In a way, it is reassuring that these stars are not exempt from nagging conditions no matter how much they have in money or prestige.

Ubrelvy has taken the opportunity to enlist Serena Williams in their campaign at a time tennis gets center stage. Is this a one shot celebrity use? We shall see but clearly it can work with others if AbbVie chooses to look for more celebrities who are sufferers.
Bob Ehrlich
DTC Perspectives, Inc.