Lipitor is back on television sans Dr. Robert Jarvik. This time, Pfizer has cast an unknown Lipitor user in hopes of avoiding any further scrutiny. The star of the new commercial is John Erlendson, a 58-year-old talent agent from Lafayette, CA, who suffered a heart attack in 2007 and is now taking Pfizer’s cholesterol medication.
Jim Sage, senior director and team leader for Lipitor, told Pharm Exec that Pfizer never considered pulling consumer advertising for the product, and the delay in releasing the new commercial was attributable to creative brainstorming and testing.
"We believe that DTC is a very effective way to reach people about important medical conditions," he said. "The [last] few months were spent coming up with the most appropriate communications for Lipitor."
Jarvik was relieved of his celebrity spokesperson duties in February after it came to light that the creator of the mechanical heart wasn’t a licensed cardiologist, and though an MD, had never practiced medicine.
DTC critics and members of Congress attacked Pfizer for the original Jarvik ad after it came to light that the producers of the spot used a stunt double in shots of Dr. Jarvik performing physical activities. That won’t happen in the Erlendson campaign. "In this commercial, the activities are representative of what John does," Sage said. "He leads an active lifestyle and does exercise with his family, including bike riding, which is what he is doing in the ad. The claims are scripted but the story is true to the detail.
"John, in this case, really resonated with consumers—people that have the condition, because he is like many of them," Sage said. "He was someone who tried to control his cholesterol through diet and exercise, and felt that he could do it on his own. Unfortunately he was unsuccessful, and suffered a heart attack."
There are a few differences between the old Jarvik ads and the new one. Erlendson introduces the commercial with a short story about his past struggle and cuts to a montage of him engaging in physical activities, such as bike riding and walking.
Sage said that Pfizer is considering casting other patients in the campaign, but for now Erlendson is the face of Lipitor. "John turned out to be an excellent ambassador, and his story really resonated with people," Sage said. "What was really clear when we showed this ad to consumers is that it struck a chord with them to find out more about their condition and speak to their doctors. More than 50 percent of the people who saw it said that they were more likely to speak to their doctor as a result of the ad."
Kerry Hilton, CEO and founder of HC&B, notes that Pfizer has taken the campaign one step further by adding Joe’s story to the branded site at www.Lipitor.com/MyStory, and filling it with additional information."Lipitor did something smart with this campaign," Hilton said. "They took the commercial the extra step and brought it online. And that’s where this campaign comes to life in a real, meaningful way."