Xpectives News

DTC for Two Different Drugs in One Ad

September 17, 2020 by 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.

Bob Ehrlich

One comment

  • erika hanson brown

    January 23, 2022 at 5:21 pm

    Hi, Bob –I’m in cancer care (healthcare), so I watch these commercials with a great deal of interest. I come at it from the cancer patient side……and I always wonder why the commercials leave me so unnerved.
    This BMS campaign (and the combo of IO drugs) is REALLY promising….for a subset of a certain type of cancer patient.
    So why doesn’t the marketing also include answers for me –the patient – about HOW I can find out about my biomarkers?
    How can I take action with my providers unless I know that I have a case?
    You probably don’t know this, but our cancer patients are told NOTHING at diagnosis….NOTHING about the fact that there are about 7 different strategies for treatment possibilities DEPENDING upon the molecular testing of their tumor.
    Why the heck don’t the drug companies get together with the testing companies (Foundation, Guardant, Caris, Tempus, Natera, etc. ) and really PRESENT a PATHWAY for the intended target of the commercial: THE PATIENT and THE CAREGIVER?


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