AstraZeneca pulls Take it From a Fish campaign

AstraZeneca has suspended its Take it From a Fish campaign, taking down the online creative for a campaign that won the top prize at the 2015 Lions Health festival in Cannes, France.

The campaign website, TakeiItfromafish.com, the YouTube videos, and the Twitter feed and TakeItFromAFish.com website are all now inactive.

The unbranded campaign featured two dead talking fish, Sal and Marty, who discussed lowering their triglyceride levels amid jokes about their relationships, eating habits, and big-screen star quality.

See also: AstraZeneca wins Pharma Grand Prix at Cannes

“The Take It From A Fish campaign was an innovative pre-launch and non-branded marketing effort that has recently been discontinued,” an AstraZeneca spokesperson said in an email.

Take It from a Fish was the first campaign to win a Pharma Grand Prix at the Lions Health, the healthcare segment of the 2015 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, held each June. Rob Rogers, co-CEO of the Americas for Sudler & Hennessey and the 2015 jury president, last year described the campaign as “an example of a traditionally conservative client doing something really groundbreaking.”

AstraZeneca markets Epanova, a prescription pill that lowers triglyceride levels in patients with hypertriglyceridemia, a condition that can cause heart disease. The FDA approved the drug in May 2014 and the unbranded Take it from a Fish campaign debuted  a month later. (Epanova launched at the end of 2014.)

The market for prescription fish-oil pills like Epanova is relatively competitive, and Epanova was a late arrival. GlaxoSmithKline's Lovaza was first to market, in 2005. Teva now sells a generic version of Lovaza, while AbbVie also markets its version of the drug.

See also: What to expect in wake of the Amarin ruling: more truthful off-label talk from pharma

In a description on its website, DigitasLBi, which developed the creative for the campaign, said the target audience for the campaign was much more interested in fishing than  triglycerides. “So who better to share diet and exercise information than a pair of wisecracking fish?” the Publicis Groupe agency wrote.

By most industry standards, the campaign was successful. Within three months, there was an 11% increase in searches for high triglycerides and the Twitter feed had the fourth highest follower count among pharmaceutical brands, DigitasLBi claimed.

At the same time, industry executives say it's relatively uncommon for companies to take creative work offline even if it was designed to support an unbranded marketing campaign. Drugmakers traditionally launch unbranded campaigns before moving forward with branded efforts.

There are a handful of reasons why a drugmaker might choose to remove creative content for an unbranded program. One unnamed executive wondered if the removal of the Take It From a Fish creative was more a question of corporate concern about “taste and tone” or if the outcomes of additional clinical trials for other indications were not as promising as initially hoped. Another said that certain pre-launch communications must be amended to promote a product in a branded environment.

See also: Grand Prix drought ends, but questions persist

In 2014, at the inaugural Lions Health event, the pharma jury declined to award the Grand Prix, with some judges explaining that the work that had been submitted wasn't worthy of the honor Even after the jury awarded the Grand Prix to Take It from a Fish in 2015, there were grumblings within the industry about the humor-based campaign.

The 2016 Lions Health festival is scheduled to be held June 18 and 19 in Cannes.