Merck’s new Gardasil ads omit talk of transmission

A national ad campaign for Merck’s Gardasil launched yesterday, as the company touts the cervical cancer vaccine for use in approved age groups. As in the unbranded information campaign that started last summer, the new branded ads stop short of mentioning that HPV is sexually transmitted. Instead, girls and young women urge eligible females to get the vaccine, given in three injections over six months, and empower them to be “one less” affected by cervical cancer. Print, television and online ads also encourage females to continue seeing their doctor for checkups and cancer screening. The decision not to discuss sexual transmission in ads was “based on wanting to make sure a concise message and an educational message was out here as quickly and as concisely as possible,” said Kelley Dougherty, director of public affairs, Merck Vaccines. Not discussing sex also helps Merck avoid the ire of conservative groups. Information about how HPV is spread can be found in other elements, including brochures and on the Web at and the Merck-designed, Dougherty said. Gardasil, approved by the FDA in June for females 9 to 26 years old, helps protect against four types of HPV responsible for most strains of the disease. A CDC panel recommended it for girls 11 and 12, and down to 9 per a physician’s discretion, and for all those not vaccinated from 13 to 26. Merck said it will continue to support the “Tell Someone” unbranded TV ads by DDB, which started last summer, and another multi-lingual disease awareness program called Make the Connection. The informational ads educate consumers that HPV is the precursor of cervical cancer. Professional ads by Juice Pharma with support from Ferguson and media by FCB HealthCare discuss health consequences of HPV.