Eli Lilly, with Oscars in its sights, calls out stars who use GLP-1 drugs to fit in a dress or tux

Eli Lilly is biting the hands that fed the weight-loss hype machine, calling out people who use the jabs to fit in a smaller dress or tuxedo in one ad and emphasizing that “obesity is a matter of health” in a second TV spot.

Lilly began its attack on the use of GLP-1 receptor agonists for “cosmetic weight loss” at the start of the year, when it published an open letter to clarify that its drugs Mounjaro and Zepbound “are indicated for the treatment of serious diseases.” The products, both of which contain tirzepatide, “are not approved for–and should not be used for–cosmetic weight loss,” Lilly said. 

One of the new Lilly ads, "Big Night," goes further. While the open letter was a general broadside against cosmetic use of tirzepatide, the 30-second TV spot is a focused attack on Hollywood. Lilly timed the ad to coincide with awards season, specifically the Oscars, and left no doubt about its targets. 

“Some people have been using medicine never meant for them, for the smaller dress or tux, for a big night, for vanity. But that's not the point. People whose health is affected by obesity are the reason we work on these medications. It matters who gets them,” the ad states.

The voice-over delivers those lines over footage of a sequined dress being laid out, the curtain going up at an empty auditorium that resembles the Dolby Theater where the Oscars take place, a red carpet being rolled out and the flashing cameras of the press pack. After showing the glamorous world that adopted GLP-1 drugs, Lilly reveals its core population: an everyday woman riding the subway.

In the other ad, "Shame," Lilly takes a closer look at how weight affects the lives of people like the woman riding the subway. The narrator of the 60-second explains that shame “showed up when I was young and stayed like a shadow, living in glances of people I loved, and ones I didn't even know, always reminding me of my body's supposed value.”

The ad shows the glances the woman received, the look of a loved one at the dinner table and a twitch of the eyes of a stranger on public transport. In the final section, the woman casts off the shame, asking what good it does, and is shown happily dancing and swimming. “Health is not about what weight we lose, it's about all the things a body can gain,” the ad concludes. 

Lilly’s intervention comes one year after Novo Nordisk’s rival GLP-1 drug was name-checked in the Oscars ceremony, when comedian and TV host Jimmy Kimmel delivered the line “when I look around this room, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Is Ozempic right for me?’”