Bayer gets with the program for Super Bowl LIII to kick off cancer testing awareness effort

Bayer is going to the Super Bowl. Not with some glitzy $5 million TV ad, but instead with a print ad in the official Super Bowl LIII program to launch its new awareness campaign around genomic testing for cancer.

The “Test Your Cancer” campaign soft launch begins with the Super Bowl ad along with focused digital ad buys in an effort to make people aware of genomic testing options for solid tumor cancer patients. The headline of the ad is tailored to the audience, and reads: "Cancer treatment shouldn't be a coin toss." Bayer's ad appears on page three of the 292-page program—3.6 million will be printed as well as available online where the booklet is expected to receive 500 million page views—running alongside ads from big consumer brands including Samsung, Mercedes and Pepsi.

“Cancer is relevant probably to everyone sitting at the Super Bowl,” said Cindy North, Bayer's director of direct to consumer marketing for oncology. “Almost everyone somehow has somebody that has been touched by cancer, whether that’s their mother, their next-door neighbor or God forbid their child.”

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A phase two marketing effort for Test Your Cancer will begin next quarter with a bigger push and increased emphasis on digital, adding interactive video, more educational resources and more media buys to drive people to the website. A simultaneous professional HCP campaign to reach oncologists and pathologists will also run with the goal of educating doctors about the types of tests and who should be tested.

Increased testing could boost Bayer’s Vitrakvi, a drug marketed in collaboration with Loxo Oncology, a company Eli Lilly recently agreed to acquire. The drug won approval in November to treat patients with solid tumors that have a neurotrophic receptor tyrosine kinase (NTRK) gene fusion, no matter the type of tumor. When Viktravi snagged its FDA green light, analysts noted the benefit of an approval that stretches across tumor types, but they pointed to one major obstacle to wide adoption: NTRK testing is not routine.

“Many patients are not even aware of genomic cancer testing. It’s not something that an oncologist will always bring up to them,” North said. “Our goal is to educate them to the point where they will ask their physician and then they and their physician will make the decision on whether it is right for them.”

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One of the important distinctions Bayer is looking to make with the campaign is the difference between genetic testing and genomic testing. Most people are aware of genetic testing like 23andMe or AncestryDNA and may confuse that with a genomic test that is instead designed to identify gene or DNA changes, in this case in conjunction with a tumor. North said Bayer purposefully took a “layman’s approach” to make sure the information could be understood by everyone.

Analysts have pegged peak sales of Vitrakvi at anywhere from $700 million to $1 billion.