The 2022 Oscars ceremony will be remembered for Will Smith’s unfortunate pugilism. Nonetheless, a commercial that premiered during the broadcast was a one-minute tour de force of perfectly timed eye rolls and winks to the camera, without its star — an actor portraying a woman named Gloria — uttering a single word.
The spot, which has since aired on CBS, NBC, ESPN and BET as well as across digital platforms, is for Novartis’s Leqvio, a siRNA therapy for cholesterol reduction approved by the Food and Drug Administration in December.
The campaign’s two spots share a similar style. The second ad focuses on a man named John, who echoes Gloria’s charm and sense of comedic timing.
In both, the silent protagonists remain center-screen while a combination of stop-frame animation and live footage plays out behind them. Novartis’ goal is to convey the richness of a full life: career highs and lows, the births of children and grandchildren, college tours, fad diets, blizzards and dragging oneself to the gym or pool.
Mike Exton, VP and head of the U.S. and global cardiovascular, renal and metabolism franchise at Novartis, sees the ads as hitting different notes than other pharma ads — and ones that are uniquely suited to Leqvio. Instead of focusing on either a disease or a treatment, the spot offers a human-centric approach.
“This historical narrative of individuals and what they have come through treats the patient as a hero,” he explained. “It focuses on their achievements. They just need to manage their LDL and Leqvio is an option for that.”
Gloria and John are celebrated in the spots as, above everything else, relatable. “The ads convey this idea that patients are busy, that this is the real world and it’s not all glossy, and we have all experienced similar things — crazy weather and difficult bosses,” Exton noted.
The focus on the life of the patient makes sense given the nature of the condition, he added.
“This is a chronic disease and patients deal with it for, quite frankly, decades. Elevated LDL doesn’t, however, define who they are. The ad has a celebratory feel that we think is important, and an empowering one too.”
The protagonists’ diversity — Gloria is Black, while John is white — is designed to recognize the diversity of the 16 million Americans with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) taking statins to lower their cholesterol. Beyond the fact that those with ASCVD skew older, the disease largely cuts across other demographic lines of race and gender.
While the spots are the centerpieces of the Leqvio campaign, Exton emphasized the breadth of the broader effort.
“This is a 360-degree campaign on digital channels, in HCP offices and on social media. It is one of Novartis’s most important assets over the coming decade and it will be strong and sustained,” he stressed.
When asked about immediate response to the ad’s Oscar-night debut, Exton said that patience is necessary.
“The most important thing for me is whether people are seeing the ad and starting conversations with their doctors,” he responded. “It will take another month or two before we have insights on whether that is happening.”