Fishing for market share, Boehringer Ingelheim casts a new campaign for Pradaxa

A Pradaxa ad featuring the fish illustration.--Courtesy of Boehringer Ingelheim

What do fish and atrial fibrillation have in common? AFib feels like a fish fluttering in your chest, according to patients interviewed by Germany-based drugmaker Boehringer Ingelheim. That was the insight that inspired a newly launched ad campaign for clot-fighter Pradaxa, featuring computer-generated fish.

When patients reported the "fish fluttering" sensation, the Pradaxa team "thought maybe there's something there. Maybe we can create something that they could really relate to that's different and meaningful for them," said Denise Strauss, VP of cardiovascular marketing at Boehringer, told FiercePharmaMarketing. "And so 'Red Fish,' as we call it, was born." 

The red CGI fish serve as representations of red blood cells as they move--and sometime clot--when traveling between the heart and the brain. The work is meant to educate patients with AFib about their greater risk of stroke.

The new campaign also is the first to include the fact that Pradaxa now has an FDA-approved reversal agent, news that might ease some patients' and doctors' worries about side effects. The ad doesn't specifically name the reversal drug, Praxbind, but it was approved in October for use in emergency bleeding situations in Pradaxa patients.

"The truth is many patients don't understand AFib," Strauss said, adding, "The fish are able to (convey the message) in a warm, approachable and familiar way that really resonates with patients because they're so unique and memorable, and more than anything else, they're informational.

"They're delivering information in a way that's never been done before. … It's not the typical celebrity-lifestyle handholding on the beach."

Created by ad agency GSW, the campaign launched Jan. 11 and includes TV, print, digital and in-office materials for physicians. Boehringer test-marketed the fish campaign with physicians, along with consumers, and found that doctors were "incredibly receptive because of the informational nature of the campaign," Strauss said.

Pradaxa is in a competitive anticoagulant market that includes the generic warfarin, along with Pfizer ($PFE) and Bristol-Myers Squibb's ($BMY) Eliquis and Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Xarelto, along with newcomer Savaysa from Daiichi Sankyo. It is the first besides warfarin to get to market with a reversal agent, although the other companies are working on them.