Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

Drugs On TV: My Review Of What's Playing Now

A couple of days home sick with daytime television as your nursemaid can tell you a lot about the current state of multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical advertising. Yeah, we all know it's ubiquitous, but there are at least a couple of noticeable new players and an older one hitting the airwaves.


Pfizer's ad campaign for its inhalable insulin Exubera is in full swing. The NFL halftime report on one of the networks was even sponsored by Exubera (Pfizer).

The commercial is pretty unremarkable. Just a bunch of talking-head patients (actors) talking about diabetes and the drug. It doesn't seem like the kind of campaign that PFE desperately needs to goose disappointing sales, so far, of Exubera. We'll get an early indication of its effectiveness--or lack thereof--when the company reports earnings next month.

More attention-grabbing is Pfizer's new tortoise and the hare commercial for its stop-smoking pill Chantix. Unlike Exubera, Chantix is off to a very strong start.

Lilly and Amylin have finally started direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising for their insulin-alternative Byetta. The spot is very similar to the Exubera commercial featuring average-looking folks again just talking about the condition and the product. Nothing catchy. At a recent investment conference Amylin's CEO said sales of Byetta aren't growing as much as he'd like. I'm not certain this campaign will address his concern. But investors might be pleased to see the companies flexing their marketing muscle a little.


But the novel, highly-effective commercial that really caught me eye was for Johnson and Johnson's Tylenol. For the first time that I can recall, the commercial features people (they appear to be the real deal, not actors) who say they makeTylenol. Sounding a bit like a scout's oath they all "promise" to do their best as Tylenol manufacturers. The spot immediately made me think about the Tylenol scare and wonder why the company would go this route now. But on the other hand the commercial has a warm and fuzzy--almost inspirational-quality to it. You can check it out at

I couldn't remember when the poisoning occurred. So, I Googled it. And guess what? The 25th anniversary of the first report is this Saturday. So, perhaps that explains the timing of the campaign. JNJ may be getting out in front of the inevitable 25th anniversary news cycle with a spot and a Web site that aim to reassure consumers the product is still safe.

Questions?  Comments?