King of Super Bowl Sunday

January 31, 2007

Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical Executive, Pharmaceutical Executive-01-31-2007, Volume 1, Issue 5

Unbranded campaign with American Heart Association kicks off with much fanfare.

King Pharmaceuticals is bravely betting on the Super Bowl to kick off a $5 million unbranded campaign called "Heart Attack" to boost sales of its blood-pressure drug, Altace (ramipril). The drug company is the first to publicly announce that it is buying time during TV's most coveted four hours, when advertising gets almost as much coverage as touchdowns and field goals. With pharma's marketing budgets under heavy scrutiny--both inside and outside company walls--most marketers are passing on next Sunday's razzle-dazzle.

"All eyes are on the Super Bowl," Rebecca Sroge, executive vice president and managing director of Publicis agency Glow Worm, which created the spots. "It had to be appropriate and it had to be entertaining."

While the hypertension category is packed with products both branded and generic, drug makers still insist that it has room to grow. Lacking telltale aches and pains, many people with high blood pressure remain either undiagnosed or noncompliant with their treatment--which means that the next frontier is establishing the seriousness of the condition with patient education about the toll that hypertension takes on the heart.

Ninety million people watch the Super Bowl each year, and about 30 percent of all Americans have high blood pressure--and many don't even know it. "There's a large crossover," said Steve Andrzejewski, King's chief commercial office.

In "Heart Attack," an unsuspecting Heart Man is assaulted by a gang of heart-disease risk factors: High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Overweight, and Diabetes. The tag line: "Is your heart at risk for an attack?"

"When someone's told they have high blood pressure, they don't necessarily think it's bad for their heart," Sroge said. "It's almost like a mugger--we heard that in market research. We took that idea and ran with it."

The company's two TV spots--one 60 seconds, the other 30--steer viewers to www.BeatYourRisk.com, a Web site created with the American Heart Association (AHA) as part of a three-year partnership around high-blood-pressure awareness. The site, which also goes live on Super Bowl Sunday, features a risk-assessment tool and encourages users to discuss their results with their doctors.

With close to $472 million in sales in the first three quarters of 2006, and 16.7 percent growth over the same period in 2005, Altace is one of the most commonly prescribed Ace-inhibitors. King is also supporting prescription uptake with data from its HOPE study, which suggests that patients on Altace had a decreased risk of heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.

"The ultimate goal of the campaign is to get people to take action," Andrzejewski said. "It's unique and exciting." The campaign, which will be reinforced with print and online ads, builds on branded spots created in 2002 featuring professional golfer Jack Nicklaus, an Altace patient. "We don't have plans to revive the branded advertisements for Altace at this time," Andrzejewski said.

Other companies so far seem to be steering clear of the Super Bowl hype. The hefty cost of airtime is a sticking point not only for firms hell-bent on cutting costs but also for their critics, who take issue with spending big bucks to mass-market products that may carry health risks.

"The question is, is it right for the context of the Super Bowl--high profile, high entertainment?" said Loreen Babcock, chairman and CEO of ad agency Unit 7, which did not work on the campaign. "In today's environment, would it be seen as irresponsible?"

Babcock described the AHA's involvement as "highly unusual," but also gives King the leeway to have fun with the creative. "Education is valuable," she said. The marketing component "won't be as in-your-face."

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