Jack O’Brien interviews Merz Aesthetics’ Roberto Casas Rudbeck, VP of U.S. marketing aesthetics, about Xeomin’s choice of Demi Lovato as its latest brand partner. In her Capitol Hill report, Lecia Bushak says legislation for PBM reform has been sidelined and offers an update on Medicare drug pricing negotiation. And a new Ozempic documentary tops our Trends segment, along with Belharra’s biotech podcast and one agency’s pet-themed corporate campaign.

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Note: The MM+M Podcast uses speech-recognition software to generate transcripts, which may contain errors. Please use the transcript as a tool but check the corresponding audio before quoting the podcast.

Hey, it’s Marc…

Interesting marketing story this week…

Merz Aesthetics announced that it’s partnering with pop singer Demi Lovato on a campaign for XEOMIN, the company’s botulinumtoxin-based drug for temporarily smoothing out frown lines in adults

Lovato is the latest in a series of musicians and entertainers who have signed onto the brand’s multichannel “Beauty on Your Terms” campaign, each in an effort to reach a different demographic.

Pop icon Christina Aguilera joined a year ago, designed to align the brand with Gen Z and millennial men and women.

R&B star Teyana Taylor and singer Joe Jonas both came onboard in 2022, Taylor to conquer stigmas around injectable treatments among women of color and Jonas to help cement the brand in the minds of younger audiences.

Lovato hasn’t been immune to controversy. She survived a heart attack after a drug overdose several years ago, and her decision to sing her hit song “Heart Attack” during a performance at the AHA’s Go Red for Women Gala last month prompted mixed reviews.

My colleague Jack O’brien has an interview with Merz marketing exec Roberto Casas Rudbeck to find out more about the choice of Lovato for this latest iteration of its medical aesthetics campaign.

Hi Marc, today I’ll talk about the new spending bills unveiled in Congress – which left out bipartisan PBM reform – as well as the latest update on the Medicare negotiation process.

And Jack, what’s trending in healthcare this week?

This week, we’re talking about CNBC’s GLP-1 documentary, Belharra Therapeutics’ podcast series as well as Minds + Assembly’s pet lovers contest.

Roberto it’s great to have you on the podcast. Thank you for joining us.

Thank you for having me Jake pleasure to be here.

It’s so exciting to have somebody on that’s got some relatively breaking news by the time this podcast errors the VM and partnership with Demi Lovato will be public. Can you walk us through the details of that partnership was then Dale?

Yeah absolutely happy to so for a little bit of background the campaign that we call Beauty on your on your own terms. It’s a multi-year multi-channel initiative. That is aim to reach out the fastest growing segment in the aesthetic Market just now we launched in 2022 and it is a very Innovative and growing campaign for the Pharma side where we have been used to get all these commercials and Hulu or TV and this is completely these

tape here in the way that we have partner also with people in the puff culture industry, like counting us Universal music group and even a great partnership with with her’s group to really get an organic message to our target audience, which is this mid-20s to meet thirties early forties what we call this selenials and

Why we chose Demi? Well, just one of the most significant Global Sensations really of her time and completely embodied the meaning of Beauty on your own terms.

Just staying true to yourself absolutely inside out and and you look at her personal journey is very authentic and

Trillium exactlyifies our mission and he’s a powerful advocate for itself expression of self-care at these moment for people that have been able to take part of the announcement and

the material that he’s out there on social media. It will take notice of that.

So she fits as a person she also fits thanks to her audience.

She has a ginormous audience over 278 million followers across all her social media channels.

And if you take a deeper, look at the people in this the her follower chip 90% of women and the large large majority of them are 18 to 44, which is exactly the group that that we want to reach with our message.

I appreciate your detailing why Demi was elected in addition to you know demons focus on Celebrity Partnerships. I want to get back to that as it relates to the campaign itself. What is that going to look like, you know the last time that we covered the omen and it was the Christina Aguilera announcement. There was the commercials which I saw all throughout the football season still do on other TV channels and and social media was that gonna look like from Danny is it gonna be commercials gonna be out of home? Was that campaign look like

oh, this is first fall and natural next step of these multi-gear campaign. Our campaign is total.

And we are going for Aaron organic paid. So we’re doing programmatic great PR efforts as well and everything that goes through social media and through the pay part. We’re following our consumers to our loyalty program experience plus sorry. I’m gonna say that again apologies.

Next natural step of the campaign. We do not only choose a celebrity for celebrities sake what we need is someone that help us break through the note through the noise.

We amplify the message and driving engagement by using macro influencers that completely resonate with the audience and also embodied these ideology of self-care being staying true to yourself.

And then as I was mentioning earlier with the partnership with condane asked with universal music group and Hearst were able to create these surround sound around the consumers isolating that we want to get into our patient loyalty program experience. Plus we want to attract those toxin naive patients. The ones that are very interested in self-care that are really looking for what in their products are really scrutinizing what what they’re gonna put in their body and really choosing human to relax their elevens or their front lines and we have created a hashtag smart talks, which is just that is the embodiment of what xiaomi is as a product. So it’s a hundred percent, you know campaign. We’re not going to be doing anything of the traditional out of

out of home or anything like that, so

True surround sound it is not a celebrity campaign. This celebrities a component of that that help us break through the noise, but then we amplify the message and reach to these consumers through something very important. We are where they are at the intersection of beauty fashion.

and music

therefore we are leveraging very important moments as the Grammys the upcoming Oscars this Sunday the New York Fashion Week and we will in the end close the loop.

inside the physician’s office

where the consumer walks in and

recognizes everything that they have been seen online that when they were watching everything around the Met Gala it recognized all the messaging. It’s like, okay. This is this is what we want.

I want them in I want to look good. I want this product that it’s gonna help me feel and say as I want to feel.

I appreciate you talking about the campaign and how it’s going to look on a digital front you brought an interesting point about celebrities and not just use them for the state of celebrities to push the brand. I’m curious your thoughts because I’ve spoken to a number of marketing leaders and they talk about having their brands promoted by celebrities or like you were talking about influencers and kind of micro influencers and there’s been studies that we’ve seen where maybe some of the micro influencers are more effective and say having a celebrity they say having a Travis Kelsey or in this case with Demi Lovato, but there is obviously the broad reach the celebrity gets you what are your thoughts and that kind of changing Dynamic where it used to be. Oh you want to celebrity running your campaign, but now there is value and having somebody that maybe has a few hundred Instagram followers or something, but they’re very dedicated and listen.

I’m gonna say that there is something very true in that. However, we take a lot of time and effort in choosing who we want to go with because it has to be someone that resonates with what we want to convey to the audience that has a follower ship that is it’s significant and also in our target audience that has a very solid true fan base.

I would like to see or say that Demi Lovato is just a mega mega influencer.

to your point

when people see someone that is a little bit more like them.

The trustworthiness increases and therefore we work also with influencers at very different levels big smaller and my growing influencers sometimes even Nano influencers to transfer these credit ability to the consumers to make the message as authentic as possible. So we need to celebrity to break the noise the announcement today. It’s breaking through the noise getting the attention then we move into these 10-pole events where we have many times significant number three influencers. They talk about it. They share when they’re getting prepped to get into into the Vanity Fair Oscars after party or when they’re gonna go to the Grammys or they’re coming to the New York Fashion Week and they share their Journey their self-care Journey.

And talking about how they get ready and how they feel and look fresh after being injected with them.

I was curious to you talk about celebrities. I love that phrase that the mega influencer just given their their reach but affecting this in talking to their audience what has the response been? Obviously the ones that stick out to us are Christina Aguilera Say on a tailor Joe Jonas and now Demi Lovato. I imagine the responses are pretty good. You keep going with these celebrity Partnerships. So have there been any metrics or any results that really stick out the in terms of like, oh, yeah. This is actually working.

yeah, well, the number one metric is that we are insanely pleased with the results we’ve seen on everything from earned from paid and it affected it has had on the number of

patients signing up for for our experience plus program. They loyalty the patient loyalty program. We are reaching record number of enrollments in that’s a great Testament to the results of the campaign and others are also taking notice act. We have received that significant number of accolades and we have been competing outside the Pharma space for awards. We have been competing with McDonald’s and Proctor and Gamble Walmart and other big Brands as the only pharmaceutical company in in the consumer space and being nominated four times recently for the all my words winning one of them as well, which we are actually very proud of and finally results. It’s all about the results in sales, which also have been very positive. That’s that’s as much as I can say

Yeah, the other day it always comes down to the bottom line and how it performed. I am curious from your perspective what you make of the Aesthetics market and obviously there’s been kind of conversation about whether gen Z is going to embrace things like botox Museum and things like that and the jury seems to be kind of out but there doesn’t seem to be the backlash. I think a lot of people expected what has been your experience in terms maybe that younger demographic that one you’re targeting. I imagine it’s been positive keep targeting these celebrities. They have that sort of audience.

This is actually one of my favorite topics. If you go back three four years, we were in the middle of our at the beginning and healthy pandemic and a lot of people retreated to their homes isolated.


others talk about the zoom boom

And yes, that’s true. But there is also on a very important part where everyone especially these younger generation seeing their peers how they were. Let’s say let’s call it soothing themselves by self-care taking care of themselves. You can imagine the level of Trance with stress will leave during that time and remove the big stigma. That was perhaps being perhaps being these threshold of

talking openly about

getting treated with with them in and doing injectables in your face.

It is now part of a self-care routine for many.

and also it is why there are more available to to these demographic they have

Also done their research during time. They’re very well informed so bottom line here is no backlash. It’s been very positive. When we look at the results of the campaign when we look at the sentiment of the campaign online when we track that it’s been insanely positive very high 90s across all channels, which we’re very pleased.


excellent. Well Roberto, I’ve really appreciate you being on the show and obviously getting the detail everything Demi Lovato and Museum and Beauty on your turn campaign, but I can’t let you go without asking the obvious question. If you have a favorite Demi Lovato song and what that would be

cool for the summer. It’s a great song and it’s a right right into what we were going to words to be honest. Yes.

I was gonna say that there was the right or wrong answer you absolutely pick the right answer. So I appreciate you


giving our audience that along with inside that campaign great heavy on the show.

Thank you. Thank you for inviting me Jack and nice chatting.

There are several updates on the health policy front this week. First, following a long bipartisan push in Congress, legislation for pharmacy benefit manager reform was left out of the spending bills unveiled this weekend.

The bills would fund various federal agencies through the beginning of the fall, including alotting $6.7 billion for the FDA, $307 billion for the VA, and $4.27 billion a year for community health centers.

But the bills left out PBM reform efforts that bipartisan lawmakers have been working on over the last year. One of those bills, which would ban spread-pricing or charging insurers more than what they pay pharmacies, had passed a House panel in February.

Those PBM provisions didn’t make it far in Congress, however, and they’ve been sidelined for the time being – likely until after the election.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, ranking member of the Senate HELP committee, said in a statement that QUOTE “I’m extremely disappointed [the package] leaves behind major reforms that would lower prescription drug costs for America’s seniors… It is a real missed opportunity that these critical, bipartisan provisions will be unnecessarily delayed until December or longer. We can do better.”

Meanwhile, the Medicare drug pricing negotiation process is marching on. The Biden administration announced Monday that all drugmakers participating in the process – including Johnson & Johnson, Merck and AstraZeneca – submitted counteroffers for the initial price offers Medicare provided in February.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra noted in a statement that QUOTE “We are committed to constructive dialogue and are glad the drug companies are coming to the table. These are good-faith, up front negotiations.” When Medicare and drugmakers agree on a maximum fair price, they will be published by September 1.

The announcement comes shortly after a federal judge dismissed AstraZeneca’s lawsuit claiming that Medicare’s new negotiating power is unconstitutional. I’m Lecia Bushak, Senior Reporter at MM+M.

And this is the part of the broadcast when we welcome Jack O’Brien to tell us what’s trending on healthcare social media.

Hey Marc, a couple of items just missed our roundup, including Joey Graziadei, the current Bachelor, speaking out about his Gilbert syndrome diagnosis as well as Oscar winner Jamie Foxx promising to address his health scare from last year.

Late last week, CNBC aired the documentary Big Shot: The Ozempic Revolution, diving into the world of GLP-1 drugs.

The special, hosted by Melissa Lee, touched on a number of aspects of the GLP-1 phenomenon and featured interviews with a family on a variety of GLP-1 drugs, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb and Novo Nordisk CEO Lars Fruergaard Jørgensen, among others.

For the sake of our audience, the most interesting detail explored in the documentary is the advertising around GLP-1s and how telehealth companies like Ro have capitalized on the unprecedented demand for treating obesity and weight loss.

Lee interviews Ro’s CEO about the role the company has played in streamlining the ease with which consumers can access these drugs as well as the shortages that have last for months.

He noted that Ro stopped advertising Wegovy when Novo did over the summer of 2023, but when the drugmaker resumed in recent months, so did Ro.

The doc also underscored the risks of compounded drugs, the double-edged effects of influencers promoting these products on social media and the potential for the obesity stigma to get worse if societal norms change because of these drugs.

Towards the end, the doc asks if Ozempic shaming could lead to the idea of these drugs as “cheating” to lose weight. This all comes as former Nickelodeon child star Josh Peck sparked a debate with a recent viral TikTok on whether weight-loss drugs like Ozempic were considered cheating.

Yeah, I overall felt that it was a bit fractured and it jumped around a lot and didn’t really delve deep into

Some of the stuff that it was covering, you know it maybe we’re biased because we we cover the stuff on the daily and we read headlines about you know, the latest updates on the glp-1 drugs on a daily basis. So, you know, we I kind of felt that the documentary didn’t really unveil anything new particularly new about GOP ones that we haven’t read before that hasn’t been reported on before and it sort of jumped around on a lot of different topics. I mean there was the interview with the row CEO there was the problem of the compounded drugs. It kind of briefly touched on how gopio ones would impacts societal ideas of body image, but didn’t really delve much further into that and then there was one scene that I remember where one of the patients taking the drug was basically saying well, what’s the point of living if I can’t enjoy food anymore as one of the negative side effects of the drug, which is something I hadn’t heard before but they didn’t really

Delve more into that at all. But I guess you know for a viewer who doesn’t know much about the drugs. It does like the the documentary did provide a fairly comprehensive overview for sort of the average viewer who might not know the details about it, but overall I kind of felt it. It jumped around a little too much.

I know it kind of fell a little underwhelming. I’m so glad you brought up some of those points that were detailed in it related to stigmatization and advertising and access issues. All that kind of got a dress just for a little bit and then it went on to another subject. I would say a little bit more time there mark out curious if you had a chance to theater. If you have any thoughts it’s in terms of the general conversation around, you

know, I watched the interview with Melissa Lee, you know, who’s of course a CNBC fast money reporter who’s hosting the documentary and she kind of ran through a high level overview and what I was you know, most struck with struck by excuse me, and what I found kind of surprising was was you like what would you unless you were?

About how it it’s a really sort of a wide-ranging type approach, you know from the corporate perspective, you know, they go to Copenhagen and they talk about how the drugs Commercial Success has changed the company culture. You know, they talk about the history of you know, obesity treatment, you know, Fen Fen being the last foray into weight loss by drug company, but of course was pulled due to some fatal side effects and how a lot it took a lot to convince the drug industry that obesity was a viable marketing platform and you know, and in terms of you know, what’s maybe surprising I don’t think our viewers are our audience from from M&M is gonna find it, you know much surprising here. Although there’s one there was one aspect. I found a little bit surprising that was at the family that they focused on the North Carolina family who unfortunately has had a lot of challenges with the weight loss and they eat like three of the family members had had done bariatric surgery and stop working for them. I didn’t know that was possible. So but this sounds like they’ve found some some

through glp-1 treatment, but one of the one thing that I also, you know think that was probably lacking they probably didn’t go into a lot of depth on was the fact that you know, while these drugs could very well become the best-selling drug class of all time, ironically there anything but a textbook marketing case study because you know, they interview companies like row which were

Plastering, you know almost every available surface devoted to marketing as one article put it with ads for these drugs before either. We’ll Govi or zepbound made their formal TV debut. So there was a lot of pent up demand for these drugs building. And so that’s that really, you know covered to that extent here, but it’s kind of covered in terms of what are the challenges going forward in terms of these, you know medspas and Telehealth companies and diet clinics, you know kind of advertising these drugs away from the purview of the FDA which which doesn’t require what so they don’t require a fair balance information to you know to the same extent. So, you know, we’ve lost marketers of lost, you know control of the narrative because of that so that’s something that they really don’t develop into but you know, it is less probably, you know worth a watch for somebody.

Was just kind of a broad overview.

Over the past couple of weeks, Belharra Therapeutics has been publishing podcast episodes detailing the company’s rise and line of drug candidates.

Titled “Belharra: The Birth of a Biotech Podcast,” the six episodes released as of Tuesday afternoon feature centers on CEO Jeff Jonker speaking with key executives about the San Diego-based biotech startup’s inception, growth and ambitions.

While it may not be the sexiest story or production value, it does provide an interesting under-the-hood look at the world of a burgeoning biotech from its days as a concept at Scripps Research to taking on VC money with the goal of treating a host of challenging disease states.

I read you know Beth Snyder Bullock’s piece on this on the podcast series and I think as a branding and recruiting tool I think it’s a good idea, especially given that you know, what what the state of Biotech funding is these days it’s it’s been a very hard environment, you know for raising capital and even established companies that are at the commercial stage are having to do more of the royalty types of agreements in order to extend their cash runways, you know, as we’ve all reported three of us, you know, and on the biotech beat, you know, so anything that increases the exposure of the company and what it’s trying to do in this case you’re trying to you know, find undruggable previously on druggable targets and and develop medicines for them small molecule medicines, I believe and they’ve gotten a lot of apparently inbound interest from this series so it sounds like kind

Of a no-brainer from that perspective and yeah, you don’t normally see, you know, the CEO of Biotech company of hosting a podcast and having it kind of opening up the doors of the company and showing you an insiders look.

Yeah. That was one thing that stuck out to me is is it’s not as you mentioned Marcus not frequently. You see the CEO actually directly hosting the podcast and sort of opening this direct line of communication to the audience and you know, this kind of follows in the footsteps of a lot of Pharma companies and people in the industry launching podcasts, like I remember in 2019 2020, there’s sort of like a big podcast Boon and you know, everyone was starting a podcast and Big Industry players like Eli Lilly Jen and Tech and fights are all launch these long form podcast series that focus on vaccines or scientific innovation happening at their companies, and I remember that was really popular during the pandemic because you know, everyone was at home. A lot of people were listening to podcast

Tests during the lockdowns this new podcast made me kind of Wonder Maybe at Mark you have answer and answered this question. But do you feel that podcasts are still kind of holding that power in the industry when it comes to, you know, brand strategy and communication strategy or is this something that might drop off or do you think that they you know, these companies are still kind of investing in podcasts as like a communication strategy.

Well, I think that it’s become a

Stand by a fixture if you will of the corporate marketing Playbook hasn’t it? Right? Like you said so many during that boom time 19 and 20. A lot of Pharma companies came out with these long-form podcasts offering a peek behind the curtain of drug development offering consumers, you know, more of an appreciation of what it takes to get a drug across the finish line and as we explored mmm a year ago at our not the last meeting Summit, but the one before that were Bill Fitzpatrick our our fearless podcast producer hosted a talk with a number of podcasting companies and they made the point that these podcasts are not competing against, you know, The Joe Rogan Experience, they’re competing in a different swimming pool of specialized audiences and the more Niche the better because they’re going for you know, B2B audience or an investor audience. And so I think it does offer a way of you know, sort of

are targeted in your Communications everything and I think it will continue. Yeah.

My two cents

if I’m just add one final note to I think it also is interesting to have a biotech company rolling out a podcast series. I do think that there is this mistrust and misperception I think among the general public and certainly critics of the Pharma industry about you know, what their Ambitions are and where what’s driving them and this organization. I think you can say about a lot of companies our mission driven, you know, they want to be able to talk to these diseases. They want to be able to see this sort of technology and science applied in a way that’s going to actually benefit patients in the long run and benefit People’s Health. So it’s interesting here there like again, it’s not the sexiest sort of topic you’re gonna hear but it does remind you these are people at the other day who are trying to do a good job trying to benefit the industry writ large. So that’s just my final two cents on on that story.

Absolutely 100% agree. Yeah,

Finally, we go to Minds + Assembly and pets.

The 2023 MM+M Agency 100 honoree put a spin on the recent TikTok trend of bringing back department store family photo shoots – all as part of a contest for pet lovers around Valentine’s Day.

As part of a visual giveaway, Minds + Assembly offered five winners and their pets a free photoshoot at the agency’s in-house creative studio in New York City.

The agency hosted an internal shoot with five employees and their pets, with the results used in promotional materials for the campaign.

On Valentine’s Day, the contest was launched. To enter, individuals needed to comment on the agency’s Instagram and LinkedIn posts with their name, pet name, type of pet and they needed to follow the agency’s Instagram or LinkedIn page.

Minds + Assembly told us they had more than 20 people stop by in less than 48 hours to enter the contest and while I know this is an audio medium, trust me when I say the results were both very cute and very fun.

The agency said it gained over 50 followers on Instagram and this was the most engaged post on its page.

o, I like it a lot. I agree with you both and I think that it’s a it’s a Playbook, you know for other agencies out there looking to build their social followings, right? I mean if we found anything in our own sort of social media campaigns as a brand, I think we have a pet contest if I’m not mistaken the pets have Universal appeal and so this seemed to work for them on some extent to some extent and caught on a little bit and it is it was effective. So

What else is there to say but I think that these are great Outlets, you know for the agency’s creativity and you know, they they’re great internal kind of from a employee Resource Group perspective, you know, they get everybody involved and so from that perspective too. It’s it’s probably good for the agencies culture and it was a nice time between their own campaign and then kind of an external campaign. So like it a lot

Absolutely, give credit to all the people that managed to Wrangle their pets to come to their offices in Manhattan. I could barely get my pets to go to that. We lived in Upstate New York. So that takes a lot of skill in its own, right?

Absolutely. Yes, and I like the Italian, you know to the to the 90s photo shoot, you know, which really does also kind of transcend has a Transcendent quality in American culture as well. You know with with the movie The Christmas Story, you know where he’s you know gets his picture taken with with Santa and you know the scene where he says I want to a red ranger BB gun and then he gets on ceremoniously who did down the slide you’ll shoot your eye out kid and I can tell you that, you know coming from a Jewish family, you know, we talk about that and and very reverent tones, you know, so that scene. It’s very Transcendent American culture. So

All right, any other any other last words on the minds and assembly pet campaign?

Now I think this good job. Mine’s a family appreciate them flag in that for us to get to talk around the show. And as always get to end the showing up swing which is better than not

absolutely and we should mention that Jack is is joining us from location on location in Washington, DC. What are you covering down there again jack.

The Foo Fighters are performing tonight. We’re on recording this Tuesday afternoon. They’re performing tonight for the power to the patients one night only to promote Healthcare transparency. So other story on the website tomorrow afternoon Wednesday, so I have time this post you should be able to go read it very much looking forward to I have not gotten to see Fighters live. So that’s the benefit itself in addition supporting a very noble cause of additional transparency to the healthcare space.

Yeah, it’s cool to cover Health marketing isn’t it? And the power of the patients campaign keeps keeps on impressing me with it with the the power of their brand partnership. So we look forward to reading that story Jack safe travels. Looking forward to seeing you back here in New York. Thanks everybody for joining us in this week’s episode of the mmm podcast.

Thanks for joining us on this week’s episode of the MM+M Podcast. Be sure to listen to next week’s episode when we’ll be joined by Jordana Barish, senior director of the allergy portfolio at Sanofi, to discuss Allegra’s brand activations at South by Southwest.