AstraZeneca uses snails and overstuffed luggage to push OIC awareness--and its branded solution

No one wants to talk about constipation. Except AstraZeneca ($AZN). On national television. To the tune of almost $10 million in media spending since late June, according to real-time TV ad tracker iSpot.tv.

AstraZeneca's "OIC is Different" campaign

AZ's new TV campaign around OIC, or opioid-induced constipation, has two parts. One is a general awareness push for OIC, which tends to afflict people taking pain meds for chronic conditions. The other effort is branded advertising for AZ's OIC fighter Movantik, which it co-markets with Daiichi Sankyo in the U.S.

The first of three ads in the awareness campaign features an actress painting a picture of a snail as a way to explain, as she says in the ad, how opioids "are slowing my insides to a crawl." That ad began airing June 29 and has tallied $8.3 million in media spending on more than 2,400 airings, according to iSpot.

Since constipation isn't a subject people generally like to talk about, AZ has gone subtle, as the snail idea suggests. Actors in two more recent ads paint a bathtub plug and a lock to illustrate the problem. The two new unbranded ads both began running Aug. 18, and they've each tallied a little over $200,000 in paid media to date--82 airings for the bathtub plug and 99 for the lock, according to iSpot.

Meanwhile, the Movantik branded work is an animated TV spot in which a cartoon woman uses overstuffed luggage to get her point across. The spots began airing Aug. 17, AZ said, and according to iSpot have racked up almost $1.1 in media spending in less than a week.

"These (unbranded) new ads, called 'OIC is Different' showcase a patient point of view in understanding one of the side effects they may be experiencing after taking prescribed opioid medication to manage chronic pain," said AstraZeneca in an emailed statement.

"The animated (branded) ad, called 'It Starts with 'Mu,' highlights the challenge a patient experiences in balancing the relief from chronic non-cancer pain achieved using her prescribed opioid therapy versus the 'baggage' of OIC that may accompany that therapy."

Both types of ads are meant to encourage people who are experiencing OIC to talk to their doctors, AZ said.

Movantik became the first mu-opioid treatment approved specifically for OIC in September. It launched in March into a market that industry watchers expect to grow to $1.98 billion by 2017. Movantik's main competitor is Relistor, an injectable treatment also approved for OIC in the fall. Relistor was developed by Salix Pharmaceuticals before the company was bought by Valeant ($VRX) earlier this year. The other potential competitor in the OIC market is the hospital-only treatment Entereg, developed by Cubist Pharmaceutical which was bought by Merck ($MRK) also earlier this year.

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