Home HIV test maker preps TV ad fusillade, lures Pfizer marketer

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OraSure, the maker of the recently approved home HIV test, has hired an experienced consumer marketer from Pfizer to head up the launch.

The Bethlehem, PA-based diagnostics firm named Kathleen G. Weber SVP and general manager, consumer products. She'll preside over the commercialization of OraSure's lead product, the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, which won FDA approval in July. The $39 test, which offers users results in 20 minutes based on a saliva swab, is the first home HIV test to hit the market. 

Weber joins OraSure from Pfizer Consumer Healthcare, where she was SVP and led the global Rx-to-OTC switch team, along with the $700 million analgesics and respiratory business. She had previously worked at J&J, where she headed up the $1.3 billion oral care and sanitary protection categories for Listerine, REACH, Stayfree and Carefree, and worked on the OTC switch of Claritin at Schering-Plough. 

The OraQuick test hit store shelves in September, and the company began a PR push, orchestrated by agencies Golin Harris and Zer0 to 5ive, in October, with appearances by Magic Johnson and, on October 15, to coincide with National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, former Miss Venezuela and Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza. TV ads will launch Dec. 1 on cable networks including MTV, A&E, BET, E!, Bravo and Logo, and will air on the Dec. 17 edition of NBC reality show The Voice.

TV ads, by Princeton agency Ferrara & Co., bear the tagline: “Knowing is the best thing.” Initially, the company is targeting the gay, African American and Latino communities with the ads.  Print and banner ads will also run. 

“The core message is around normalizing HIV testing and creating a feeling of inclusion and acceptance,” said Ron Ticho, SVP of corporate communications at OraSure. “It's very non-judgmental. We wanted the tone to be serious but friendly and warm.”

In addition to OraQuick, the company makes a rapid hepatitis C test, a line of swab tests for drug abuse and a cryosurgery medical device for wart removal.

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