No holds barred in Mylan’s ultra-realistic peanut allergy campaign

Mylan's EpiPen packaging
Mylan's EpiPen products.

The new face of Mylan’s latest ad campaign is blotchy and swollen. That’s because it’s the face of anaphylaxis. 

In the TV ad for the disease awareness campaign, a young woman with a peanut allergy accidentally eats a brownie with peanut butter in it at a party with friends. Viewers see through the eyes of the girl, watching and hearing her friends react, panic and call 911. The girl’s labored breathing is heard as she walks to a mirror, revealing her hive-ridden and swollen face before collapsing. The campaign launched last week.

Mylan ($MYL), the maker of epinephrine autoinjector EpiPen, told FiercePharma that every 6 minutes food-related anaphylaxis sends someone to an emergency department in the U.S. It created this campaign, called “Face Your Risk,” because people still don’t seem to realize the seriousness of severe allergies. In fact, 60% of people with a history of anaphylaxis don’t have the drug prescriptions needed to prevent it, Mylan noted.

“These facts, coupled with our deep commitment to the severe allergy community, led us to recognize the need for a new effort to drive awareness and understanding,” said Nina Devlin, head of global communications, in an email interview. “… It is our hope that this campaign leads to greater discussion and awareness about the serious, urgent and unpredictable nature of anaphylaxis.”

It’s a departure for Mylan, whose more “lighthearted” ads to date for its branded EpiPen include children and adults talking about their own or their child’s allergies. In fact, Mylan and then-partner Pfizer ($PFE) received an FDA warning letter in 2012 about a “misleading” TV ad that suggested a child who has a peanut allergy doesn’t need to worry about eating a piece of birthday cake with unknown ingredients if he’s prepared by carrying an EpiPen. The FDA forced the drugmaker to create a second corrective TV ad noting the problems with the original ad. 

The new ad, however, goes the opposite direction, showing the frightening reality of unintentional allergen ingestion. Early social media buzz indicates the potential shock of the ad. One woman wrote on Twitter: “That Face Your Risk commercial is so freaking scary! My worst nightmare for my allergies!” while a mother wrote, “Shocking new commercial … This is real life for my daughter,” Similar feedback has appeared on Facebook, such as “Hard to watch but very real for people with food allergies.” 

Overall though, the impression is positive, according to real-time TV ad tracker iSpot.tv, whose data show that 85% of social media activity so far has been positive. Food allergy groups in particular note the shock, but also the reality and need for it.

Devlin said Mylan developed the campaign with research and feedback from the severe allergy community, and chose focusing on peanuts because it is one of the most common food allergies. The campaign includes digital media with a dedicated website (faceyourrisk.com), static and video banner ads and emails. 

EpiPens are currently the only emergency epinephrine solution on the market, following the withdrawal of Sanofi’s ($SNY) Auvi-Q last November for injector needle problems. More recently, Teva’s ($TEVA) generic solution hit a roadblock with the FDA’s rejection for “certain major deficiencies,” sending the company back to the drawing board until at least next year.

- watch the ad

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