Allergan, Ironwood's Linzess takes home lone 2017 Effie pharma trophy

Allergan California
Allergan and Ironwood's “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know" work for GI brand Linzess featured stop motion.

Winning an award for advertising effectiveness may not be as sexy as winning one for cutting-edge creative, but to pharma brands under pressure to show results, it might be more significant.

The Effie awards, the effectiveness awards handed out for driving market results, are handed out in the U.S. in early June, and act as a sort of lower-key counterpoint to the global glitz of the Cannes Lions Health festival just two weeks later.

This year’s North American Health Effie Awards saw just one pharma brand taking home a trophy. Linzess, Allergan and Ironwood’s IBS-C and CIC drug, received a bronze award in the prescription consumer DTC category.

Just one winner is not necessarily odd—last year Pfizer’s Prevnar 13 was the only pharma award winner. And there were a handful of other pharma companies on the finalists list: Takeda’s Entyvio, AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s Movantik, and Acadia Pharmaceuticals' Nuplazid all made the short list. On the OTC side, GSK Consumer Healthcare won a Gold Effie for its Excedrin Migraine Experience campaign.

The Linzess Effie-winning work, “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know,” is an evolution of the campaign originally launched in 2015. The campaign uses a visually arresting stop motion technique, with the actors in the campaign actually lying on the floor with colorful graphic background. But more important than the creative vision was the emotion appeal and insights around patients’ gastrointestinal conditions. Frustrated patients told Linzess brand managers and ad agency FCB Health that they were tired of having doctors tell them to eat more fiber, exercise more, drink more water or try laxatives.

"Tell Me Something" tapped that frustration in patients’ search for answers and treatment. It also struck a chord with consumers. In persuasion measurements among patients, specifically when asked how likely they were to ask a doctor about Linzess, the campaign registered a 145% increase relative to the previous year. It also translated to a real-world prescription increase in volume by 13%, said Mark Rossetti, Linzess brand lead for Ironwood in the U.S..

“Getting the emotion right around how these people really feel pulls them into your advertising and makes them remember it. And have hope the drug can deliver on the emotional end benefit that they’re looking for,” he said in an interview.

Ironwood and Allergan have already moved the campaign forward, debuting in March new creative with the same stop motion technique, but a new theme of “Had Enough." With the effectiveness payback, expect not only more of that Linzess work but a drive to continue looking for creative solutions—despite some of the hurdles that come along with industry regulation.

“Even sitting at the Effie Awards and looking at what consumer product companies can do—look at Google, Amazon or Burger King work that won. They’re all interesting, exciting creative ideas that create behavior change. Because the pharma industry is so heavily regulated, it’s harder to do that, but it’s possible," Aimee Lenar, vice president of GI marketing at Allergan, said in an interview. "We did it, and we'll keep working to get better to break through to consumers.”