AbbVie revives DTC ads for dry eye med Restasis with a patient front and center

The new Restasis ad features a take-charge woman who handles everything from bathroom renovations to taking care of her dry eyes. (AbbVie)

Allergan’s newest DTC campaign for its not-so-new Restasis dry eye medicine focuses on a take-charge woman as the pharma reinvests in TV ads for the 17-year-old brand.

The 60-second ad shows a woman rehabbing a bathroom, silk-screening T-shirts, baking sourdough bread and fixing her car, but also taking control of her dry eyes by visiting her doctor. Allergan, now part of AbbVie, last ran commercials for Restasis in 2017 when it introduced a multidose bottle.

So why now? The demand on patients' eyes during the pandemic—more screen time, more time indoors and other lifestyle changes—was part of the reason for the new DTC campaign, Glen Curran, vice president of marketing for U.S. eye care at Allergan, said in an email.

“The continued unmet need, compounded by the increasing demands on patients’ eyes in a COVID world … drove the brand to begin to reinvest in DTC TV as more awareness and education are needed for people who may be affected, but aren’t aware of dry eye disease,” he said.

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The spot is airing on all major broadcast and cable networks and features a different approach from Allergan's past creative focused on eye care professionals. The campaign also moves Restasis from emphasizing a provider's point of view to making the patient the star of the show.

The campaign includes digital ads both on professional and consumer social media, search, display, video and websites.

Putting women at the center of Restasis' advertising is purposeful—while nearly 37 million Americans experience symptoms of dry eye disease, women in their mid-forties are most affected.

The new Restasis work joins TV ads already on air for competitors Sun Pharmaceutical's Cequa and Novartis' Xiidra. While not as humorous and in-your-face (literally) as Sun Pharmaceutical’s feather duster ad for Cequa or as silly as Xiidra’s animated villain, the Restasis tone is light and amusing with an engaging central character.

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“Patients and eye care practitioners both appreciate how relatable the spot is," Curran said. "The feedback has been that the tempo, including the music, voice and scenery, are a refreshing take on a chronic condition."

While the dry eye category has several strong contenders—and though Restasis itself has declined recently—the AbbVie drug remains in the lead. Restasis earned $1.14 billion in 2019, but declined by 0.8% in 2020. AbbVie's post-acquisition sales for Restasis, from May through the end of the year, were $787 million.