Celebrex returns to TV with long spot

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After a long absence, Pfizer resumed DTC television advertising for Celebrex last month with a whopping 150-second spot that takes up an entire commercial break.

Turning conventions of traditional prescription drug TV spots upside down, the ad, created by Kaplan Thaler, presents its warning information first—noting that Celebrex, and rivals ibuprofen and naproxen, all may cause heart attack, stroke and death. Celebrex’s benefits are stated afterward. Dr. Steven Romano, VP, Pfizer medical affairs said “Pfizer took a different approach to… clearly communicate the potential for cardiovascular risks of Celebrex.”

The 150-second Celebrex spot uses blue and white lines composed of words from the package inserts of Pfizer painkiller and other drugs to create animations of people running, dancing and riding a bicycle. Print ads, appearing in national titles such as Time and US News and World Report, use a similar text-as-art motif.

Pfizer yanked television advertising for Celebrex in the wake of the 2004 withdrawal of Merck’s Vioxx. An FDA panel later said that painkillers similar to Vioxx, known as COX-2 inhibitors, also carried the same risks of heart attack and stroke. As a result, Pfizer withdrew its COX-2 Bextra from the market in April 2005. Celebrex, however, remains available to consumers.

Even without a major TV ad campaign behind the brand, global sales of Celebrex jumped 18% in 2006, exceeding $2 billion.

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