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Chantix Bounced From McCann to McGarry Bowen


Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-02-05-2009
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Pfizer switched agencies for its popular smoking cessation drug Chantix. While the company is tight lipped about the campaign's new direction, it looks like this may be the end of the tortoise and hare. Does this signal an end to the use of critters in pharma ads?

After helping launch one of Pfizer’s biggest lifestyle drugs since Viagra, the iconic tortoise and hare might be getting sent to pasture. Adweek, on Friday, reported that Pfizer has switched gears and dropped McCann Humancare as the agency of record for the smoking cessation treatment, rep[lacing it with the New York-based independent agency McGarryBowen.

McCann’s much-lauded print and television campaign -whichcompared the plight of a smoker trying to quit to that of the tortoise attempting to outpace the hare in the children’s fable-will continue to run through the first quarter of 2009, according to Pfizer.

“In many communications, smokers are vilified and made second-class citizens,” McCann executive creative director BJ Kaplan told Pharm Exec last year. “Part of this campaign is to praise quitters for the attempts they are taking and to encourage them to quit.”

McCann will continue to serve as agency of record for a number of other Pfizer properties including the popular Viva Viagra campaign. Pfizer told Pharm Exec on Tuesday that the decision to change agencies for Chantix was due to a number of creative concepts brought to the table by McGarryBowen.

“The goal of the Tortoise and Hare campaign, executed by McCann, is to encourage smokers to set realistic expectations when they try to quit,” Pfizer spokesperson Sally Beatty told Pharm Exec. “Having said that, quitting smoking is very difficult. We believe multiple waves of messages are needed to help smokers make the decision to try to quit. As the needs of the Chantix brand continue to evolve, McGarryBowen presented us with innovative ideas that we feel best meet the needs of the brand at this time.”

A Change of Pace
Add the tortoise and the hare to the list of critters no longer working for pharma. It’s hard not to notice the recent disappearance of some of the quirky characters that permeated pharma ads for the past few years.

The infamous beaver and Abe Lincoln characters that helped launch Takeda’s sleep aid Rozerem seem to have vanished. The Rozerem home page is currently being upgraded and the surreal imagery has been replaced with a portrait of a middle-aged woman. Takeda could not be reached for a comment, but it looks like the dynamic duo might be gone.

Peter Zamiska, chief creative office at Ferguson told Pharm Exec that sometimes quirky can go too far. “My clients have never been entirely comfortable with the cartoonish or quirky advertising in my experience, but they’re always looking for that iconic character,” Zamiska said. “These are two totally different things in their minds. They generally shy away from ‘eccentric’ work in my opinion.”

However, some iconic characters like the Nasonex bee and the Lunesta moth are still flying high, even if they’ve been toned down a bit over the years.

“As industry becomes more mature, the communication becomes more mature,” said Russ Messner, head of BBDO New York’s healthcare sector. “DTC is relatively young in the US, and I think we went through our adolescent years where it was about standing out in edgy and interesting ways. What our industry has come to realize is that in order to meet clients’ needs the communications have to become more mature.”

“I don’t know if it’s as much as deliberate decision [to move away from cartoon characters], but I think it’s more about how the market is responding differently to different kinds of messages,” said Loreen Babcock of Unit 7. “We haven’t seen a change toward people wanting to take those concepts off the table in our kind of work.”

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