Cialis to kick off ad drive during Super Bowl

http://www.heraldnet.com/Stories/04/1/26/18086118.cfm

By Bryan Corliss

Herald Writer

Cialis allows couples to wait until the moment is right – that’s the idea behind the commercial for the new erectile dysfunction drug that will premiere during Sunday’s Super Bowl.

It’s a big-time kickoff for Lilly ICOS, which is putting up millions to launch its new marketing campaign in front of one of America’s largest TV audiences during a game where the multimillion-dollar commercial breaks are as closely watched as the event itself.

“The Super Bowl ads have begun to gain a mystique in themselves,” said Doug MacLachlan, a marketing professor at the University of Washington.

Launching new ads during the Super Bowl means that Lilly ICOS is “joining the big boys,” he said.

Rivals GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer AG also plan to buy time for ads about their competing drug, Levitra, according to reports. Pfizer, the maker of Viagra, also is reported to have bought Super Bowl ad time, according to one industry source.

The Lilly ICOS marketing campaign behind the new drug takes a different approach from that used by the makers of Viagra and Levitra, Blum said.

The message is aimed at couples, he said. “We’re not talking about a drug for guys who are concerned about their manliness.”

The 60-second ad starts with the image introduced in brand name advertising that Lilly ICOS launched during last weekend’s National Football League conference championship games – a couple sitting in side-by-side bathtubs, holding hands as they watch the sunset.

The rest of it is filled with images of relaxed, playful couples flirting, cuddling and taking a long Sunday drive – a subtle nod, perhaps, to the drug’s nickname in France, where it’s called “Le Weekend.”

The voice of the announcer will tell viewers about the thing that makes Cialis different from other erectile dysfunction drugs – it lasts 36 hours, not four as do Viagra and Levitra.

Blum said the advantage of Cialis is that a man can take it and wait until the time is right to be intimate with his partner – which is the idea the relaxed playful ads are trying to convey.

With the other drugs, “there’s a lot of planning involved,” Blum said, which to feel that ” ‘It’s now or never, honey, or else I’ve wasted my 10 bucks.’ That’s not exactly a platform for romance.”

Lilly ICOS does have to come up with something different as it attempts to promote Cialis, given that it is coming into a market that’s already crowded with established challengers, MacLachlan said.

“It would be silly for them to have a sports person spokesman,” he said, noting that Viagra and Levitra already have sports figures pitching their products.

The soft touch of the Cialis ad could be the right one, MacLachlan continued.

“It’s supposed to be a tender moment, not one where you have to dash off and take a pill,” he said. “I think that idea will appeal more to women.”

Lilly ICOS – the joint venture formed by ICOS and pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly Corp. – spent a year working on the commercial, which launches a new phase of advertising for the drug.

Blum wouldn’t say how much the companies have spent on the commercial, or what it cost to buy advertising time during the Super Bowl. But the Associated Press last week reported that the average price for ads during Sunday’s game was $2.3 million for a 30-second spot.

Blum did say that the companies plan to spend enough for a campaign that it will be comparable to the $90 million to $100 million that Pfizer reportedly spends a year on Viagra’s marketing.

“This is a very expensive category in which to compete,” he said. But the payoff is big too – there are an estimated 30 million men with some sort of erectile dysfunction, he said.

The Super Bowl ads will be the first time that Lilly ICOS has touted Cialis and its ability to perform. The advertising so far has been limited to what Blum called “brand awareness.” They mentioned the name of the drug – “Cialis is coming, are you ready?” – but not what it does.

That’s because ads that talk about what medications do have to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Blum said. That approval process has been rigorous and on a tight schedule, particularly since November, when the agency approved the drug for use in this country.

But it’s also a common approach for companies with a new product, MacLachlan said – teaser advertising to make consumers curious about the new product. The trick is not to tease for so long that the ads become irritating, he added.

The stakes are high with Super Bowl advertising, but at the same time, it’s one of the best times for companies to cut through the clutter and get their message out, MacLachlan said.

Unlike many sporting events on TV, viewers will postpone bathroom breaks and kitchen visits to watch the commercial.

So for Lilly ICOS, “At least on the Super Bowl, they know the likelihood is very high that people will be watching the ads,” he said.

Reporter Bryan Corliss: 425-339-3454 or [email protected] .