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Eau de Glaxo

It's not quite the same as waiting for new, entertaining commercials during the Super Bowl, but there was a noteworthy premiere during last night's Academy Awards.

Source: GSK

GlaxoSmithKline unveiled the latest in a series of unbranded, disease awareness commercials in the middle of the oh-so-long telecast.

Last October the FDA approved GSK's vaccine, Cervarix, to prevent sexually transmitted disease and cervical cancer. But in a move to try to avoid blowback about aggressive direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing, drug companies these days wait awhile before they start advertising newly approved products by name.

In the meantime, they get around it by coming up with a campaign that talks about the problem the treatment or vaccine addresses.

The Oscar audience is mostly female.

So, the agency that produced this spot or that did the buy smartly placed it on the show.

The clever commercial, at first, looks like it's a trailer for some new Disney princess movie, then looks like it might be an ad for yet another perfume, before finally morphing into the serious, darker topic of cervical cancer.

But, by that time, they've got you.

Still, I wonder why GSK is spending the money on a disease awareness campaign when Merck has had its similar, heavily advertised vaccine, Gardasil, on the market for quite some time. Glaxo's competitor has already done a lot of that work.

Why not just wait to blitz the airwaves with a branded campaign once the DTC waiting period is over?

Unless, of course, the company did research that showed there's still a lot of people out there who have no idea about HPV and that it's the leading cause of cervical cancer.

At the end, the commercial sends people to a Web site. But, man, couldn't they have gone for a shorter URL than "HelpPreventCervicalCancer.com?" That's a lot to remember, let alone type.

And just how much is Glaxo willing to invest in trying to sell these expensive shots?

Sales of MRK's Gardasil last year were $1.1 billion. Sure, that's technically a blockbuster product, but the dollars were down a whopping 20 percent from 2008. 2010 is the first full year it'll face competition.

Get ready for more Gardasil commercials.

I smell a battle brewing.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman