GSK buoyed by early numbers on Anoro, Breo DTC campaigns

GlaxoSmithKline's "World Filled with Air" ad for Anoro--Courtesy of GlaxoSmithKline

It's no secret that GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) needed to jump-start sluggish sales of its respiratory newcomers Breo and Anoro. After all, early uptake fell short of expectations. But now, a targeted DTC push may be charging up sales.

GSK faces plenty of competition in the category, with its own respiratory behemoth Advair and AstraZeneca's ($AZN) rival drug Symbicort vying for market share. Aiming to set its new brands apart, the company drilled down into its target population for clues. GSK conducted patient segmentation studies with more than 760 participants, looking at everything from detailed demographics to patients' attitudes toward meds and their ways of dealing with disease.

Then, the company dug into particular segments, Kristi Reeves Pennington, director of GSK's consumer marketing division and COPD portfolio, told FiercePharmaMarketing. Understanding those patients led to better promotional ideas. "Those insights were based on the emotions and beliefs of those specific segments," Pennington said. "From there, we conducted and developed our positioning. We look at that from a patient angle: What can the product offer our patients?"

For Breo, the drugmaker came up with a simple mnemonic to cue patients about the brand. "I'm K-A-T-E, and I have C-O-P-D. But I don't want my breathing problems to get in the way of my volunteering," says one woman in the ad. "That's why I asked my doctor about B-R-E-O."

Since that campaign's launch last April, its results have been "extremely high," Pennington said. The DTC push delivered 39% brand awareness in 3 months--surpassing 6-month norms for the entire respiratory category, she said. Ad recall was 45%, beating a norm of 34% for the same time period.

Anoro's DTC campaign is much newer--and quite different. GSK's team created an animated ad that shows an older couple taking a road trip and having a picnic. "Nothing can reverse COPD," the voice-over says. "The world is full of air, and Anoro is helping people with COPD breathe air better."

Launched in January, it's still in its early reporting stages. But the approach seems to be working, as GSK racked up more than 100,000 web visits to Anoro's site and had more than 30,000 branded search queries during the first month of the campaign. The leading indicators are "all very positive," GSK said at a recent DTC conference in Washington, DC.

Breo and Anoro brought in a combined £43 million in U.S. sales last year--a far cry from Advair's £4.23 billion during the same period. But CEO Andrew Witty recently pointed to some positive signs, namely an uptick in prescriptions for both Breo and Anoro. The company also got some good news about Breo from a panel of FDA experts--though not as good as it had hoped. The panel voted in favor of greenlighting the drug to treat adults with asthma but didn't back it for kids.

Kristi Reeves Pennington

Meanwhile, GSK is forging ahead with both of its DTC campaigns, deciding which elements stick with patients while building recognition for the products, the company said. Its first-quarter results, due next week, will offer some recent sales numbers.

"We're continuing to evaluate both campaigns, even though it's only a few months in for Anoro," Pennington said. "We're figuring out how to optimize both of them, and as we continue to learn more and get more results, we'll be able to optimize based on what we're learning and make it better."

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