They bombard your television all day long: moths flying around your bedroom, elephants sitting on someone's chest, a middle-aged couple reclining in his-and-her bathtubs on the beach.
And the message: Talk to your doctor about this new (choose one) pill, ointment, inhaler, injectable to treat (choose one or more) psoriasis, acid reflux, toenail fungus, depression, diabetes and fallen arches.
It’s a huge business, direct-to-consumer drug advertising. Last year, Big Pharma spent $5.2 billion on DTC ads.
But did you know that it’s also an award-winning business? Yes, these ads win awards.
Earlier this month, hundreds of drug-marketing bigwigs got together for the DTC National Conference in Boston to learn the latest tricks of the trade, and to discuss laws and regulations that affect their work.
The glittery highlight of the conference: DTC National Advertising Awards banquet.
As attendees sipped wine and ate a sumptuous dinner (well, I wasn’t there, but I’m assuming it was sumptuous, because banquet tickets cost $495 a person), conference leaders handed out gold, silver, bronze and honorable mention awards in 16 categories.
You might ask, what possible categories could they come up with for all these awards? Fastest announcer to rush through all the possible side effects? Best use of cheesy music and soft lighting? Best sheepish look on a guy with erectile dysfunction?
It’s none of those things, at least not directly. According to the conference website, the ads “showcase exemplary work spanning multiple media and strategic categories.”
So think about that, next time you are watching “60 Minutes” or “Game of Thrones,” and four drug commercials blast from your TV. You might think: If only these ads were as exemplary as the DTC award winners.
Or you might think, as I did a couple weeks ago: Does everyone who watches Madam Secretary suffer from diabetes? Because I saw at least three ads for diabetes medicines between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.
So even though the American Medical Association hates direct-to-consumer ads, and wants them banned, you are free to watch as many as you can. The list of contestants is long and diverse. I spent an hour or two looking at these ads this week, as I looked over the winners list.
First a few highlights:
· Enter early, enter often: Just about all drugmakers (or their ad agencies) entered this contest. Ads for Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly were entered seven times, and won a silver and two honorable mentions. (Pfizer ads entered 20. Merck ads entered 10.)
· From soup to nuts: Diseases were all over the map, ranging from mild (constipation, insomnia) to deadly (cancer, hepatitis C).
· Easy for you to say: These being pharmaceutical products, the names were jawbreakers. Try saying this 10 times fast: Myrbetriq, Cosentyx, Farxiga, Nexplanon, Tecfidera and Namzaric.
· Always be closing: No word on whether these ad campaigns resulted in huge sales, or were just pretty commercials. But you’d have to assume none of the award-winning campaigns was a total flop.
Speaking of awards, let’s have the envelope, Johnny. Without further ado, here are the gold winners in all 16 categories. (You can look up the full list of winners here.)
Best Branded Television Campaign: Harvoni (Gilead Sciences/Strikeforce Communications)
Best Branded Print Campaign: Prevnar 13 (Pfizer/Y&R New York)
Best Branded Website: Belsomra (Merck/Y&R Group – Wunderman DC)
Best Branded Digital/Social Campaign: Gilenya (Novartis/FCB Health)
Best Disease Education Television Campaign: Heart Failure (Novartis/McCann HumanCare)
Best Disease Education Print Campaign: Tdap Awareness (GlaxoSmithKline/Ogilvy CommonHealth/Backe Marketing/PHD Media)
Best Disease Education Website: DMPM and You (Mallinkrodt Company/CDDMiConnect)
Best Disease Education Social/Digital Campaign: You Don’t Know Jack About MS (Teva Pharmaceuticals/Intouch Solutions)
Best New Brand/Indication Television Campaign: Cosentyx (Novartis/Hill Holliday)
Best New Brand/Indication Print Campaign: Kerydin (PharmaDerm/FCB Health)
Best New Brand/Indication Website: Kerydin (PharmaDerm/FCB Health)
Best Mobile App: Heart Partner App (Novartis/FCB Health)
Best Celebrity Campaign: PBA: Danny Glover (Avanir Pharmaceuticals/Advance MarketWoRx)
Best Multicultural Campaign: Levemir: Que No Pase De Hoy (Novo Nordisk/Prime Access)
Best Patient Engagement, Support or CRM Program: Medikidz Explain Living with Epilepsy (Eisai/Medikidz/Marina Maher Communications
Most Innovative: Myrbetriq / General Hospital & ABC Integration-Sweepstakes (Astellas/Pathway Katalyst FCB Health)
Do you want to see more? That’s what Google and YouTube are for. Happy viewing. And if you get your fill after just two or three ads, count your blessings you weren’t on the judging committee.