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HIV – The Fight Continues – Descovy

July 15, 2020 by Bob Ehrlich0
Those of us who remember the emergence of HIV in the early 1980s are awed by the progress in fighting the disease. There have been many drugs to treat HIV, but recently the category introduced prophylactic drugs to be taken if there is risk of exposure. Gilead has been a leader in HIV treatments and added to their mix with Descovy. 

The category of drug is called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and Descovy got this indication late 2019. There are about 40,000 new HIV cases annually. Descovy is the second drug in the category after Truvada. The FDA says Descovy was similar to Truvada in effectiveness. Both are from Gilead and Descovy uses the same combination but at lower concentrations which could improve its side effects profile. 

The Descovy campaign is basically using television with limited consumer print. The ad is lively and upbeat using the theme “Step Up, Prep Up.” We are exposed to vignettes of singles and couples telling viewers to step up and prevent HIV. The selling copy runs about 35 seconds of the 90-second ad. Fair balance is then run for about 40 seconds, with a return to the reminder of “Step Up, Prep Up” lines in the remaining 15 seconds.

The background music is a drum mix, with one of the vignettes showing five drummers. It has a nice contemporary feel and the beat adds to the positive outlook of using a drug to prevent HIV. Gilead has switched advertising from Truvada to Descovy for a solid business reason. Truvada will go generic as early as late 2020.

The limited print campaign ties well to the television using the headline “Step Up, Prep Up” and shows scenes of the actors featured in the television ad. The digital also integrates well using these themes.We have come a long way from the heartbreaking days of HIV/AIDS of the early 80s. It is gratifying to see HIV presented first as treatable and lately preventable with drug treatment. 

Earlier HIV ads were largely print. Like many other limited incidence categories, television seems to be accepted as a worthwhile investment. Clearly the emotional element can be best used on television. The DTC payback comes from the fact that Descovy is priced at about $2,000 a month. Getting a few thousand new patients means potentially tens of millions in sales. These sales are also recurring since this is used to prevent the disease and will be taken indefinitely.

It has been a remarkable 40-year journey from almost certain death to a manageable or preventable condition. 
Bob Ehrlich, Chairman
DTC Perspectives, Inc.

Bob Ehrlich


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