Nuedexta maker Avanir taps actor Danny Glover to shed light on little-known neurological condition

Danny Glover in PBA Facts

Actors cry and laugh on command, but people who have pseudobulbar affect (PBA) can't control their crying jags or laughing fits. That's the central idea of Avanir's new PBA awareness effort, starring actor Danny Glover.

When Avanir, which makes PBA treatment Nuedexta, started working on the unbranded campaign, the company knew it had to be simple, but also credible. After all, as sales-and-marketing SVP Michael McFadden told FiercePharmaMarketing, this real neurologic condition "sounds like an imaginary disease."

The creative team, which included agency Advance MarketWoRx, came up with the idea of using an actor and went looking for a spokesperson. They found Glover, who now stars in its PBA Facts campaign in TV, print and digital. In the TV spot, he demonstrates how he can turn tears and laughter on and off, ending with the message: "Choosing to laugh or cry should be up to you, not PBA."

Glover's reputation and gravitas "brings dignity, credibility and importance to this condition," McFadden said in an email interview. And success, apparently. After just a few weeks of running, the Glover TV spot drove up awareness by 20 percentage points. More symptomatic people were driven to speak with their doctors as well, with that measure up by 25 percentage points.

An estimated 2 million people with traumatic brain injuries or neurologic conditions--such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke or multiple sclerosis--have PBA. In fact, an estimated 10% of MS patients have PBA. It's a secondary condition caused by "short circuiting" in damaged areas of the brain that control emotions. PBA, known by different names across history, was described by Charles Darwin in medical journals more than 130 years ago.

This is Avanir's second awareness effort for PBA. Its first in 2013 drew 400,000 unique visitors to the PBA Facts website and had 70,000 patients and caregivers requesting educational kits to learn more. McFadden expects the new work to attract even more new patients and caregivers.

- see the TV spot

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