Boston Scientific expands heart implant TV campaign, treading on anticoagulants' turf

Boston Scientific HQ
Boston Scientific's heart implant called the Watchman is expanding its TV ad push promoting the device as an alternative to blood thinner drugs. (Boston Scientific)

After testing local market TV last year, Boston Scientific has expanded its TV media run for its Watchman heart implant device—continuing its play on competitor blood-thinners' home turf. 

The Watchman TV spot first aired last spring in four test markets of Detroit, Phoenix, San Diego and Tampa, but last week Boston Scientific extended the push. A company spokeswoman said the campaign has not gone national, but rather has expanded into "select additional local markets." She did not give locations. The Watchman is an FDA-approved implant approved to reduce stroke risk in people with non-valvular atrial fibrillation.

TV advertising is a rare move for device makers, but Watchman's competition, next-gen blood thinner drugmakers, often take their messages to TV. New-age anticoagulants Xarelto from Johnson & Johnson and Bayer, and Eliquis from Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb routinely spend millions on TV ads. In the past 30 days, for example, Xarelto's makers spent $12.6 million on two commercials, while Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb dropped just under $5 million on one Eliquis ad, according to data from real-time TV ad tracker

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The third big player in the category, Pradaxa from Boehringer-Ingelheim, hasn’t aired any new ads recently, but the pharma racked up millions in the past, including for its award-winning Red Fish ad in 2016.

So far, Boston Scientific’s new TV media buys have been small, with daytime placements on shows such as "Dr. Phil" and "Good Morning America," according to data. In the commercial, a women takes her father to the hospital with a head wound that won’t stop bleeding. She talks to a doctor about her concerns that this is her father’s third time in the hospital for a serious bleed and wonders if the blood thinner he is taking, named by the doctor as generic warfarin, is really helping. The doctor then tells the two about the Watchman implant alternative. The TV ad ends with a call to visit the Watchman website to learn more.

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At the time of the initial local test market runs last year, Boston Scientific executives told the Boston Globe that there was a lot of internal hand-wringing over whether to run the TV ad before the company eventually decided physician and patient education about the Watchman option was important.