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Merck's Movie "Script" For Advertising Its Cancer Vaccine

Monday, 2 Jun 2008 | 8:57 AM ET
Sex and The the City
Source: sexandthecitymovie.com
Sex and The the City

You can get a steady diet of all things ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) on CNBC and here at CNBC.com, so I'm gonna blog about something totally different.

Well, it does have to do with cancer prevention. Specifically, staving off cervical cancer and/or the sexually transmitted disease known as HPV, which is the leading cause of cervical cancer.

While sitting through the trailers and commercials leading up to a screening of "Sex and the City," up pops a drug commercial. Yep, not even in the movie theater can you escape pharmaceutical direct-to-consumer advertising.

It was a spot for Merck's vaccine Gardasil. Moviehouses everywhere were packed with mostly females last weekend to see SATC, so I'm thinkin' maybe it's not a bad marketing effort aimed at a targeted, captive demo.

A Merck spokesperson says the company has made a national theater "buy" from May 30th through June 26th. The commercial will run not only during the trailers before "SATC," but also at screenings of "The Incredible Hulk," "Get Smart," "The Happening," and "You Don't Mess with the Zohan," among others. They're all films, the spokesperson says, that will attract the 19 to 26-year-old females who could get the Gardasil shots.

Merck is hoping the Food and Drug Administration will soon approve Gardasil for women into their 40s, so I wonder if the SATC campaign is also intended for them.

And in the near future the company plans to file for the FDA okay of Gardasil for young men and boys who can carry and transmit HPV. So, given their selection of summer movies Merck's marketers have made, here too, I suspect the commercials are an attempt to raise awareness among guys as well.

But again, the Merck spokesperson says it's the 19 to 26-year-old females (the FDA-approved group) that it's going for.

Gardasil costs around $300-$400 for the three shots (combined) that are given over six months. It's a major sales and profit growth engine for MRK and, so far, it is a big success.

And Merck is making a box-office bet that Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, Samantha and Big will make it even bigger.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com

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