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My Favorite Fowl

August 6, 2020 by Bob Ehrlich0
Hmm, Aflac or Chantix. Duck or Turkey. What a feast! I have written about the Chantix Turkey when it launched. I liked it then and like it now. I said then that I did not see the use of the turkey as a long term campaign. Apologies to Pfizer and their agency VMLY&R. They have extended the campaign with numerous new executions.

Starting with Turkey by the pool in early 2019, Chantix has added Turkey campingsightseeingice skatingsnowball fightinglounging at homeat a local carnival, and at the beach. The theme has stayed the same. The Turkey represents not having to quit smoking cold turkey. 

This campaign is quite interesting and innovative for DTC. It is a far cry from patient testimonials and actor Ray Liotta, which were done earlier and also well done. I have no data on its success versus the earlier approaches. I can say with certainty that Chantix ads are memorable, likable, and unique.

“Once you land on a great strategy, you can’t shy away from it. We were certain that offering smokers a gentle alternative to cold turkey would motivate them to try quitting again. The Slow Turkey character is really just the most natural expression of that idea,” John Bollinger, Executive Creative Director at VMLY&R, told DTC Perspectives.

Use of a cute character has its limits. It really depends on the therapeutic category. It is hard to imagine using a Turkey for cancer ads. No, the cute character needs to stay within categories we do not consider immediately life threatening. Of course smoking can lead to heart disease and death, but not imminently like stage four cancer. Cute characters have worked for toe fungus, urinary incontinence, gastrointestinal ailments, and dry eye. Lamisil (Digger), Myrbetriq (walking bladder) and Xiidra (eye critter) are examples where levity was considered useful.

Chantix apparently decided that a cute character would help break through the DTC clutter of testimonial, lifestyle, vignette type ads that dominate drug advertising. I think it certainly does that well. Whether the Turkey can endure much longer is up for debate. Chantix has proven me wrong that the Turkey can be extended to numerous situations. Clearly in other categories, characters have lasted for years and have not shown any viewer fatigue. The Geico Gecko and Aflac Duck have had staying power.

Chantix has the benefit of a relatively simple selling message. You can stop smoking over time with Chantix. No need to go through the withdrawal going cold turkey. With that simple message, Chantix can focus on a memorable creative device. Many drug ads have so much information to convey that they need to be more straightforward in their presentation and use real patients or doctors, or actor portrayed patients or doctors, to recite multiple points. Chantix had the luxury of being able to focus on stopping power since the message can be nicely conveyed through the voice over.

What is very interesting about the campaign is the lack of print ads. The campaign is over 90% television with the rest digital. I would think the Turkey would make a nice visual in full page ads. That said, Chantix knows what works and has their reasons to eschew print for television. Good job Pfizer and VMLY&R for trying something very unique among DTC ads that have a tendency to look the same.
Bob Ehrlich, Chairman
DTC Perspectives, Inc.

Bob Ehrlich


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