King bets big on unbranded Bowl spots

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King Pharmaceuticals courted controversy with its big bet on an unbranded disease awareness Super Bowl ad to drive sales of Altace.

The Bristol, Tenn.-based firm plunked down $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' Glow Worm, kicked off a three-year sponsorship of the American Heart Association's high blood pressure site by King Pharmaceuticals. The spot directed viewers to where they could 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 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 a leading branded ACE inhibitor but holds only 8% of the fragmented 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.

Andrzejewski counters that the critics quoted come from Publicis competitors and says the move made 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 market.”

The only branded pharma entry in the Super Bowl ad sweepstakes was a spot for Boehringer Ingelheim's Flomax by Grey Worldwide.

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