AbbVie, Pfizer, Novartis and more air TV ads to offer COVID-19 thank-you's, support

A patient with a surgical mask looks out a window.
Some pharma companies are addressing COVID-19 concerns in TV ads advising patients about help paying for drugs. (Getty/Nikola Stojadinovic)

The challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic have spurred many marketers to create reassuring and empathetic TV ads, including some pharma companies. Several pharmas have adjusted TV strategies to run, along with typical DTC or disease awareness commercials, ads that offer thanks to frontline healthcare workers or details about help to pay for medicine.

AbbVie is leading the way in televised financial support messages, starting with the Humira and Rinvoq brands. The pharma added messages to the end of those ads directed at people who have lost jobs or insurance during the crisis, with re-directs to where they can find assistance.

For Skyrizi, its newer-to-the-airwaves psoriasis medication, AbbVie created an entirely new spot talking about the “challenging times” and the potential for financial help. The commercial, which aired several times during the popular ESPN Sunday night series “The Last Dance” about basketball star Michael Jordan, speaks directly to patients who take Skyrizi, telling them “financial assistance may be available to help you afford your medication.”

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The TV ads are part of the Illinois drugmaker's broader efforts to help patients continue to get their medications, AbbVie said in an emailed statement.

“AbbVie understands this is a difficult time for patients affected by the COVID-19 crisis, and we are here to support them. Patients access news in a variety of ways, so AbbVie has updated television spots with COVID-19 support information, in addition to newspaper and social media ads to help increase awareness about our patient assistance resources,” the statement said.

Other pharma companies offering financial assistance that may be especially needed during the pandemic include Novo Nordisk for its diabetes brand Ozempic, Novartis for psoriasis med Cosentyx and Sunovion for bipolar depression treatment Latuda.

Some other pharma companies joined the broader thank you-themed TV ad trend that many brands have adopted. Marketers from Google and McDonald’s to Dove and Glad are airing commercials expressing appreciation and pledging donations to help.

Pfizer, Amgen and Johnson & Johnson all created TV ads with messages of gratitude to people helping in the fight against COVID-19 and offered hope for the future. Novartis also included thank-you’s to “heroic healthcare workers” in a commercial for heart failure medicine Entresto as well as in the Cosentyx Connect financial assistance ad.

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While the new ads offer help and hope, they’re also likely reaching more viewers. During the pandemic, the number of TV watchers has grown for the first time since 2012, according to market researcher eMarketer. It predicts an increase of 3% in TV viewer growth for the year, driven by stay-at-home orders during COVID-19, after more than seven years of single-digit slides. Still, the trend may not last for long—eMarketer predicts a reversal in 2021 and an overall dip again next year.

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