Amgen runs lighthearted Otezla ad as psoriasis market heats up

Amgen has identified humor as the way to connect with psoriasis patients. In a space dominated by serious ads about the burdens of psoriasis, the Big Biotech has put a lighthearted spin on the condition, while still acknowledging its mental toll, for its latest Otezla TV spot

Plaque psoriasis ads and educational materials tend to play it straight. Almirall made a multipart drama series about psoriasis that was more harrowing than humorous, and Bristol Myers Squibb made its pitch for the market with a video that presented an earnest look at how the condition affected the life of one man. Amgen, which paid BMS $13.4 billion for psoriasis blockbuster Otezla, is using a different approach. 

The Big Biotech adopted a breezy, upbeat tone when it enlisted a celebrity makeup artist for an Otezla campaign in 2021 and has now returned with a TV spot that seeks to find humor in the situations faced by psoriasis patients.  

Amgen’s new ad opens with a shot of a car pulling up outside a small neighborhood cinema, The Otezla, that is showing “Live In The Moment.” As a man steps out of the car and looks at the profile of Tara, 33, on his phone, camera bulbs start flashing and the scene outside the cinema changes to look like a movie premiere. 

As that happens, a voice-over announces “introducing, Ned’s plaque psoriasis.” Ned, looking confused, awkwardly holds his arm as people shove microphones in his direction and ask, “who are you wearing?” The voice-over then says “he thinks his flaky red patches are all people see” as Ned, still looking lost and out of place, poses for photos with a shorter, older woman.

After a whip zoom, the screen fills with a single Otezla tablet. A different narrator then says that Otezla is the No. 1 prescribed pill to treat plaque psoriasis. We return to Ned as his date, Tara, greets him outside the cinema. Ned’s expression changes from confusion to a broad smile, as he moves his eyes in a way that seems to say, “sorry, I was miles away.” Tara unselfconsciously touches Ned on the arm.

After viewing Ned, Tara and other people watching the film, while the narrator discusses Otezla and its side effects, we next see the two stars of the ad hugging goodbye outside the cinema. The original male voice-over returns, saying, “with clearer skin, movie night is a groovy night,” as Ned sees the older woman from earlier in the ad over Tara’s shoulder. The older woman winks at Ned. 

The final message, which is read out and written on the screen, is “live in the moment, ask your doctor about Otezla.” Amgen is pushing that message as it works to hold off competition. Sales of Otezla rose 1% in the second quarter because “new patient demand was impacted by free drug programs for newly launched topical and systemic competitors.” Amgen expects the pressures to persist throughout 2023.