Allergan urges dry-eye sufferers to pump up their eye power

Female aviator Amelia Earhart is one of the women Allergan features in its new "eyepowerment" campaign. (Allergan)

Humans often read one another’s emotions through the eyes. But what if your eyes send the wrong messages? That’s the question Allergan wants consumers to ponder with its latest campaign, and it's enlisting Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo and other "statement makers" to help.

Redness, itching and watering are all symptoms of chronic dry eye, a condition Allergan just happens to know a thing or two about. So the Dublin drugmaker is encouraging people to talk to their doctors if they think they may have the malady—a move it calls “eyepowerment.”

The campaign—which includes digital, social, television and print elements, plus public relations support—is meant to “highlight game changers, trail blazers and statement makers that have inspired and empowered others,” Allergan said in a statement, and the faces it features are those whose eyes help “tell their personal story, reveal their character and leave their mark on the world.”

Included in that group? Earhart, Kahlo and Grace Kelly, whose photos each appear in a DTC effort that kicked off last week.

“Before we had our voice, we had our eyes,” the commercial’s text reads, later encouraging viewers to “ask your doctor for an eye exam today.”

The company isn’t stopping with historic figures, though. It has partnered up with celebrities—some of whom tweeted about #Eyepowerment during last month’s Academy Awards show—to help spread the word.

Like the pharma’s #ActuallySheCan campaign, #Eyepowerment has a female empowerment element, too. Allergan pledged to donate $10 to women’s empowerment nonprofit Dress for Success for every eye selfie tagged with #Eyepowerment shared during the Oscars presentation.

Allergan has been pushing dry eye awareness hard over the past year, and it’s no coincidence. Last July marked the arrival of Xiidra, the first competitor to its blockbuster, Restasis—and maker Shire hasn’t exactly been quiet on the DTC front, either.

Last summer, Allergan recruited actress Marisa Tomei as a brand ambassador for Restasis, while Shire rolled out awareness campaign eyelove and a commercial featuring actress Jennifer Aniston.

The way analysts see it, though, with plenty of room for market expansion, the efforts will help both companies come up big. “As Shire's Xiidra continues to ramp up, we expect the dry eye market to expand to ~$2B and become a stable oligopoly between the two products,” Bernstein's Ronny Gal wrote last year.