Bristol-Myers Q3 ad spending pushes up to $193M on renewed promotions push

For the first time since 2013, Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY) reported a year-over-year quarterly ad spending increase. Advertising and product promotion costs rose 13% to $193 million, following two quarters of double-digit decreases this year--and a 14% overall decrease for all of 2014. The last time ad spending was up year over year was 2013's fourth quarter.

Eliquis, which Bristol-Myers markets with Pfizer ($PFE) in the U.S., is getting its fair share of advertising resources in particular. The company spent $29 million on TV advertising in Q3, according to iSpot.tv, which tracks TV ad metrics in real time. Eliquis featured in three different ads that together ran more than 5,100 times. Its closest competitors laid out much less; Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) and Bayer spent $17.2 million on co-marketed Xarelto ads, and Boehringer Ingelheim's spent nothing on Pradaxa TV ads in the third quarter, according to iSpot data.

If corporate confidence in a drug correlates to ad spending, that data speaks volumes.

Bristol-Myers and Pfizer have been public about their DTC push for Eliquis, a move that "energized Eliquis' slow start" and has led to market perception that Eliquis is a better drug than its competitors, according to a recent report in Forbes. The magazine estimates Eliquis accounts for 25% of Bristol-Myers' current value, but forecasts growth to $6 billion in annual sales from Eliquis for BMS alone, upping that value to 27% of total revenues in the next 5-6 years.

Cancer fighter Opdivo is another Bristol-Myers prodigy and advertising candidate. A DTC TV ad campaign for Opdivo began in late September with a total spend of $12.7 million to date on one spot called "Longer Life." It ran 1,263 times, according to iSpot data.

Another ongoing unbranded lung cancer ad from BMS promotes the advances being made in lung cancer treatments, encouraging viewers to talk to their doctors and go to the website for more information. That website is done in partnership with 7 lung cancer advocacy groups. Bristol-Myers spent $1.3 million on 1,366 airings of the unbranded ad in Q3, according to iSpot.

Bristol-Myers separately runs a broader unbranded campaign to boost awareness of and education about immuno-oncology. Begun earlier in the year, it's called "Ready. Raise. Rise." and features "Modern Family" actor Eric Stonestreet.

Opdivo is also marketed through a branded print ad campaign that began earlier this year. The drug is currently competing with Merck's ($MRK) Keytruda in the next generation PD-1/PD-L1 cancer treatment market.

BMS CFO Charles Bancroft

Bristol-Myers Chief Financial Officer Charles Bancroft said during the recent Q3 call, according to the Seeking Alpha transcript, "We've been talking about, given our growth potential, particularly in Opdivo and Eliquis, that we need to make strategic investments to really leverage our position of strength. … You'll see additional increase in absolute terms as we get into the fourth quarter. There is some level of seasonality and timing of expenses, as we think about the fourth quarter, so I wouldn't view that as the run rate as we think about 2016. And, of course, we look across the entire business as we think about where can we up-invest, but also where can we reallocate expense."

- see Bristol-Myers' Q3 financial release
- read the Forbes article

Special Reports: Top 10 most advertised prescription drug brands | Top 10 DTC advertisers in Big Pharma

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