Valeant bets big on the Super Bowl with $4.5M toe-fungus ad

Valeant Pharmaceuticals ($VRX) wasn't kidding when it said it was ready to rumble with new promotional spending. Its antifungal treatment for toenails, Jublia, will go to the Super Bowl this Sunday. And that's no cheap ticket.

According to AdWeek, a 30-second spot pushing Jublia will air during the third quarter of this weekend's big game. It's dubbed "Tackle It." It's animated, with a football theme. Other than that, the Jublia team is keeping mum; no teasers are expected. The 110 million viewers expected Sunday will get it fresh.

J. Michael Pearson

When it appears in all its glory, the ad had better play well, considering Valeant's laser-like focus on ROI and its no-nonsense CEO, J. Michael Pearson. The spot will cost the company roughly $4.5 million, AdWeek says.

The Jublia ad flags a shift in Valeant's attitude. The built-by-acquisition drugmaker, chastened by its failure to win Allergan ($AGN), is full of talk about organic growth. It's not swearing off deals, exactly, just aiming to prove it can nurture its new products, too. That means hiring new sales reps, particularly in dermatology, where it plans to double its field force to 300. And it means expanding its direct-to-consumer advertising, with campaigns online and on TV.

Jublia is a particular focus, along with Valeant's acne-fighting brand Onexton. Approved by the FDA last June, Jublia is "really off to a great start," EVP Ari Kellen said recently at the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Valeant has invested in DTC ads and backed speaking programs with dermatologists and podiatrists. Some 150 reps are on the streets working the brand.

The Jublia marketing money will continue to flow "as long as the growth trajectory continues and the economic returns justify it," Kellen said at the conference.

Of course, stepping into the Super Bowl fray is a bold and costly move, and expectations are no doubt commensurately high. Kudos to the Jublia brand team for their chutzpah at the very least. Without much hint at what, exactly, the ad will look like, it's hard to come up with a clever comparison to a previous drug advertising move. We'll all have to tune in to the game to find out. You can be sure Pearson will be. 

The Super Bowl spot was masterminded by healthcare agency Harrison and Star, with digital animation by Th1ng, AdWeek says.

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Special Report: The most influential people in biopharma today - J. Michael Pearson, Valeant