AstraZeneca doubles down on animation—with a '60s spin this time—in new Breztri ad campaign

AstraZeneca is sticking with an animated fantasyland theme for its Breztri TV ad but uses a blast from the past to depict a brighter future.

The fantasyland approach, which shows animation bursting into real life, started a year ago when AZ launched the first batch of Breztri direct-to-consumer TV ads.

That initial phase urges patients to “Get Real” about their chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and flare-ups, emphasizing that better breathing doesn’t make everything “fun and nice.” The commercial began with an animated character of a man leading the viewer from an ideal animated world with rainbows, unicorns and dancing animals through a door to the real world.

Now, the U.K.-based Big Pharma is following the same theme but telling a different story. In “Stuck in the Past,” we see a woman in high color animation walking on a 1960s street resplendent with psychedelic VW camper vans and a vinyl shop. With the accompanying "Free’" song playing as she walks, the woman says if “you have COPD, ask your doctor about Breztri,” and again focuses on flare-ups.

“Before Breztri, I was stuck in the past,” the woman says, but then walks through a magical door (think "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?") and becomes a real person by realizing she needed Breztri.

Domenick Fanelli, executive director of AstraZeneca's inhaled respiratory drug marketing, said the "Get Real" campaign leverages insights gathered from patients—most notably, their view that it is not enough to only focus on better breathing.

Stuck in the Past uses a similar storyline that starts in the past, where COPD patients are still unaware of the danger and damage that exacerbations in their symptoms—aka flare-ups—may have on their long-term lung health.

“The new campaign aims to show patients that thinking COPD treatments are only about ‘better breathing’ is a thing of the past and that they can think differently when considering COPD treatments,” Fanelli said in an interview.

RELATED: AstraZeneca's first Breztri ad uses an animated fantasyland to get real about COPD flare-ups

The main thrust is to convey to viewers that there are medicines like Breztri that can do both: deliver better breathing and help prevent flare-ups, he said. The importance of flare-ups is something AZ emphasized, because exacerbations can lead to hospitalization and result in permanent loss of lung function as well as increased susceptibility for future flare-ups.

“We wanted to highlight the difference between the past, where flare-ups were often unaddressed, versus present-day reality, where patients can explore a treatment option to help prevent flare-ups,” Fanelli said.

The music choice for the ad was “another important decision,” he said. The company wanted to bring people back to another era with a “familiar, catchy song” that AZ believes sets this ad apart from others.

Notably, the move to animation wasn't caused by COVID restrictions, Fanelli said. Many companies began using animated commercials in 2020, especially in healthcare, to avoid using live actors to shoot an ad during the pandemic.

AZ's Breztri decision “was not forced by COVID” but was rather an “important creative choice and intentional visualization to help us enhance awareness and engage COPD patients,” Fanelli said. He noted that for the live shots in the ad, the company followed all state and local safety guidelines and did not have any COVID-related problems.

The website has also been updated to include the Stuck in the Past campaign, and it will appear in online promotions and across AZ’s social media channels, the pharma said.

The FDA approved AstraZeneca’s three-in-one inhaler Breztri Aerosphere for the maintenance COPD treatment back in 2020.

The drug made $204 million in 2021, its first full year of sales, with $73 million of that coming in the fourth quarter. The drug combines the three ingredients included in AZ’s dual-drug regimens Symbicort and Bevespi.

That approval came after a delay for the drug when the FDA issued a complete response letter in 2019. A year later, Breztri nabbed its approval, but it put the pharma a full three years behind GlaxoSmithKline’s rival med Trelegy Ellipta, which snagged its FDA green light in 2017.

2020 was also a good year for GSK’s drug, as it nabbed an additional asthma approval in 2020, which has helped boost its sales.

The GSK drug in fact brought in 1.2 billion pounds sterling ($1.6 billion) last year, up a massive 57% on the year-before period, with those dual COPD and asthma approvals.

In terms of marketing, Trelegy has gone with more somber campaigns in recent years. In 2020, GSK launched its “Start a New Day” campaign for Trelegy, which shows COPD patients coughing, throwing away ashtrays and pausing for a breath as they climb stairs.

The ads feature a soulful song—a version of the Nina Simone made-famous “Feeling Good.” It reminds viewers—and the target audience of diagnosed COPD patients—in its lyrics that “it’s a new day.”

That campaign was a departure from the first Trelegy work, which had an upbeat riff on The Jackson 5’s hit tune “ABC," focusing on the “1-2-3” refrain to highlight Trelegy’s three medicines in one.