Auxilium aims Stendra's sexy March Madness ads at stiff ED competition

Auxilium's new Stendra campaign features black-and-white ads and cheeky taglines--Courtesy of Auxilium

It's March Madness in the NCAA, which means lots of men glued to the games. What better time for an underdog erectile dysfunction drug to tout itself? That's the theory at Auxilium ($AUXL), which is launching an ad campaign for the ED remedy Stendra (avanafil).

Licensed from Vivus, Stendra was approved in mid-2012, but hit the market only in December. Vivus ($VVUS) tapped Auxilium for the launch partly because of its portfolio of men's health treatments, including ED treatments and testosterone replacement drugs, such as Testim.

Now, Auxilium is leaning on one of Stendra's selling points: Its speed. According to its official FDA label, men should take the drug half an hour before they want to get busy. That could give it an edge on well-known older treatments: Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Cialis is taken daily, while Pfizer ($PFE) advises men to take Viagra one to two hours before sex.

"We are taking a very focused and disciplined approach to the product launch and marketing ... centered on Stendra's rapid onset of action," spokeswoman Keri Mattox told FiercePharmaMarketing.

Auxilium's Stendra campaign features black-and-white ads that cheekily address the time-to-liftoff countdown. In one spread, an amorous-looking couple embraces in a parked car. "This time he was ready ... before they got home," the tagline winks.

The taglines multiply in a promo video, posted at Auxilium's Stendra.com site Friday, that features a sexy jazz soundtrack and a series of flirty couples. Just as they start canoodling, words skate into the frame. One particularly appropriate one: "This time he was ready ... before the game was over." (Never mind that it was a game of pool, not hoops.)

Mattox's mention of "discipline" in the launch is a polite way of saying that Auxilium isn't mounting a full-scale barrage of Stendra advertising on primetime TV. The promo campaign includes banner ads and video on the CBS Sports website, which will be chock-full of March Madness sports coverage. The video will also air via online services such as Hulu. No TV placement yet, but Auxilium may roll out commercials, depending on how the market responds to the drug, Mattox said.

The company has 150 reps on the street promoting Stendra, and a variety of digital marketing initiatives as well. "We are investing heavily in digital media as it is both innovative and allows for more efficient and cost-effective targeting," Mattox notes.

Auxilium is also fielding a discount-card offer, with the first three tablets free and $15 co-pays for follow-up prescriptions. And there are the usual print materials for doctors and patients, Mattox said. On the physician side, reps are targeting urologists and primary-care doctors that write lots of scripts for PDE5 inhibitors, such as Pfizer's Viagra and Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Levitra.

There's no need to point out that Auxilium is up against a couple of powerhouse ED drugs--with powerhouse marketing behind them. Pfizer spent $77 million on Viagra advertising just for the first 6 months of 2013. Lilly forked over about $89 million on Cialis.

Auxilium recently rolled out data showing that Stendra can work in 15 minutes, rather than the official 30. The company is hoping the FDA will approve a label change specifying that 15-minute time window; the agency is set to decide in late September.

Meanwhile, in Europe, Stendra is sold under the brand name Spedra--perfect for the speedy-action angle--by Vivus' marketing partner Menarini. The Italian drugmaker inked a deal worth up to $121 million for the marketing rights, plus royalties.

- see the Stendra video
- read the PBJ story

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