Private View: TV's Big Spenders

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John Canevari, Managing Partner, Chief Creative Officer, ghg
John Canevari, Managing Partner, Chief Creative Officer, ghg

Does big spending by the industry on TV ads ($2.4 billion last year, according to Nielsen) translate into outstanding creative? Not always. Many of these ads have the same familiar scenes of people strolling (or biking) in parks and laughing with families. Perhaps that lack of creative enthusiasm was one reason DTC ad spend in Q1 2012 dipped 14% from Q1 2011.

But the big spenders must be doing something right, since many of the best-selling drugs are also big-spending DTC advertisers. To see what's working—and what needs work—we took a look at the ads for the five biggest-spending brands: Cymbalta, Lipitor, Cialis, Abilify and Celebrex.

Cymbalta—Simple Pleasures
The Cymbalta commercial gets its power from combining words and scenes that typically give us pleasure with the word “hurts.” That juxtaposition conveys the devastating effects of depression on sufferers' everyday lives. The ad then shows people once more able to enjoy day-to-day activities. The message is clear. “Simple pleasures shouldn't hurt.”

Lipitor—Steep Risks
This commercial features a character with whom many men can identify—the one-time risk-taker, now older and wiser, who never goes without Lipitor. The ad uses the bike-riding theme, but tells its story effectively, through the eyes of a character who connects with the target audience.


Cialis—Any Time the Moment's Right
The Cialis ad uses a series of vignettes showing couples in relaxed and affectionate moments. The ad's romantic scenarios seem more targeted to female audience members, though the voiceover speaks to men in saying Cialis helps them be ready “any time the moment's right.” While not an example of breakthrough creative, the ad gets its message across, both to the men who may need Cialis and the women likely to get them into the doctor's office.

Abilify—Blue Robe
The Abilify ad—with an animated blue bathrobe representing depression—has sparked lots of comment. The concept is a good one—the “depression” robe keeps wrapping itself around the woman in the ad. But the execution has been mocked, both for its animation style and for its somewhat creepy depiction of the omnipresent robe.  But it certainly got people talking, and with the stigma around depression still around, that alone is a good thing.

Celebrex—In Motion
The Celebrex ad features, yet again, the bike-riding enthusiast prevalent in DTC ads, but it is saved by the clever device of using a flipbook to demonstrate motion.  The voice­over speaks to the benefits of keeping a body moving—and of using Celebrex to relieve pain, so arthritis sufferers can remain active.
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