King bets on unbranded bowl ads

King Pharmaceuticals is betting big on an unbranded disease awareness Super Bowl ad to drive sales of its ACE inhibitor, Altace. The Bristol, TN-based firm is spending $4.6 million to air ads starring “Heart Man,” a man in a heart costume who encounters cardio-foes such as hypertension and cholesterol, during and immediately after the big game. The ad, by Publicis Healthcare’s Glow Worm, kicks off a three-year sponsorship of the American Heart Association’s high blood pressure site by King Pharmaceuticals. The spot directs viewers to a Web site,, where they can take a six-question quiz that assigns them a score based on their risk factors. “It draws people in, given its entertainment value, and at the end it has a very serious message and a call to action,” said Steve Andrzejewski, chief commercial officer at King Pharmaceuticals. The full 60-second ad will appear around the two-minute warning in the first half, followed by a five-second bumper. A 30-second version will appear in the postgame show, and King and the AHA will be included in shout-outs to sponsors. Newspaper ads will run the following day in large markets. The Web site, which goes live Feb. 4, will be unbranded, but will link to an AHA site, which will, in turn, link to a page about King’s products. On the professional side, where King has previously concentrated its Altace promotional spend, King’s 1,100-strong primary care and cardiology sales forces will be talking up the quiz and the AHA partnership. The buy was first reported in The Wall Street Journal, which noted skepticism among some agency execs about airing disease awareness ads to boost sales of a drug that doesn’t dominate its category (Altace is the leading branded ACE inhibitor but holds only 8% of the highly fragmented and heavily genericized market) and pointed out that King spent $5.6 million advertising Altace to consumers in the first nine months of 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence data – though that was before the expiration of a co-marketing agreement with Wyeth. Andrzejewski counters that the critics quoted come from Publicis competitors and says the move makes sense for King, which now has exclusive control over Altace marketing. “Our first objective is to educate the public, but we do have the leading branded product in the marketplace.”