Asthma’s a real bear in Boehringer Ingelheim’s new TV campaign for Spiriva Respimat

Boehringer Ingelheim’s latest campaign for Spiriva Respimat features a "real" bear hugging an asthma sufferer, simulating the crush of symptoms.

Want to know what asthma feels like? Try a crushing bear hug. That’s what patients told Boehringer Ingelheim, informing its latest campaign for Spiriva Respimat as a treatment for asthma.

In new TV work for Spiriva Respimat, an asthma sufferer is locked in the grip of an actual large brown bear as he goes to work, rides the bus and even settles down to sleep. After treatment, the bear loosens it grip and forlornly traipses behind the man as he walks in the park with a friend, and the bear lays on the floor in the bedroom as the man snuggles in bed with his partner.

“By using a memorable and intuitive image like the 'Bear Hug,' the creative is relatable and offers easy patient self-identification,” a Boehringer spokeswoman said via email. “Market research further validated the effectiveness of the bear visual and messaging as a disruptive and compelling force.”

The campaign initially launched in digital last year, she said, with print work and also TV ads on DirecTV begun in August. Real-time TV ad tracker picked up the first nationwide run of the work last week, with spending in the first six days totaling about $650,000. Juice Pharma Worldwide is the agency behind the work.

BI is no stranger to using animals to help personify symptoms; its previous series of well-known Spiriva TV ads used an elephant sitting on the chests of patients with COPD to depict the crushing inhibiting feeling. Those TV ads, created by Draft FCB Healthcare, ran from 2011 through the fall of 2015, picking up industry kudos and awards, including a silver Effie in 2013.

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Spiriva Respimat won approval for its asthma indication in September 2015, and earlier this year, it added an indication to treat asthma in children 6 and older. Spiriva sales in 2016 were nearly €3 billion, down 15.7% from 2015, and the drug faces the loss of its patent shield in the U.S. in 2018. In the meantime, it's looking to newer respiratory med Stiolto, a 2015 approval, to help fill the gap, though that drug competes in the crowded LAMA/LABA field.