Amgen, Merck and Allergan brands reach the #FierceMadness Sweet 16

Only 16 DTC ad campaigns remain as voting moves to Round 3 in the FierceMadness 2019 tournament. (FiercePharma)

It's game over for 16 pharma ads after the #FierceMadness Round 2 battle of campaigns. Those making tourney exits on the road to the Sweet 16 included Eli Lilly's Verzenio, Pfizer's Chantix and AbbVie's Orilissa. Still in contention? DTC work for brands including Amgen’s Repatha, Merck’s Keytruda and Novartis and Amgen’s Aimovig all made it through the second round with comfortable scoring margins.

In the East, Amgen’s Repatha downed Sun’s "Everyday Flakes" campaign for psoriasis treatment Ilumya 293-171, while Boehringer Ingelheim’s Spiriva "Bear Hug" took out smaller pharma Promius' "My Skin Matters" by a vote of 193-150. Also in the East, Gilead’s Truvada beat Viiv Healthcare’s Triumeq in a close contest, 193-148, of the two HIV drugs.

In another nail-biter, Neurocrine’s “Talk About TD” campaign edged Eli Lilly’s empowering metastatic breast cancer campaign for Verzenio, dubbed “Relentless,” with a final vote of 180-172.

In explaining a TD vote, one commenter said, “This campaign was beautifully styled and told the story of TD in a compelling, shameless way.”

In the West, a heated battle of ’70s remix theme songs saw GSK's "Easy as 1-2-3" campaign for Trelegy skate by Novo Nordisk’s “O it’s Magic" campaign, 180-177.

Also in the West division, Amgen’s "Generations" campaign for rheumatoid arthritis drug Enbrel took down Pfizer’s "Slow Turkey" for Chantix by a score of 264-164, while Dupixent’s itchy skin characterizations in "No Matter What" prevailed over Merz’ new “Later Haters” work for Xeomin, 191-139.

Merck's "Tru Stories" work for Keytruda featuring real lung cancer patients and an oncologist easily topped Acadia’s Nuplazid with a final tally of 214-126, although several voters mentioned concern with Keytruda’s doctor testimonial. As one voter wrote, “Having a paid doctor advocating for drug doesn’t feel right.”

In the South, Novartis and Amgen’s Aimovig migraine work trounced Bayer’s corporate ad, 355-85. Aimovig resonated with voters, who included migraine sufferers. "It gives awareness and priority to migraine! Amgen knows what migraine means. Migraine doesn't kill you, but it doesn't allow you to live," one said. 

Also in the South, Allergan’s Vraylar beat AstraZeneca’s Fasenra 204-116, while in an OTC battle, RB’s Super Bowl effort, “Super Sick Monday,” with Mucinex topped GSK’s Excedrin Extra Strength custom headache work. Dermira’s awareness ad for hyperhidrosis won out against Eisai’s “This is MBC” portrait campaign by a 166-149 vote.

In the Midwest, Boehringer Ingelheim’s IPF spot for Ofev won handily over Endo’s "Crooked Veggies" awareness effort for Peyronie’s disease with a 377-165 vote. Voters wrote both in favor and against Endo’s ad, which seems to have been polarizing. One person wrote, “Almost inappropriate but very effective at getting point across,” while another said the “spot was a cheap synonym for an uncomfortable conversation.”

Allergan and Ironwood’s “Yes Linzess” campaign just edged AbbVie’s Orilissa for endometriosis debut by a 155-152 vote, while Novartis’ "Trash-Talking Wrestler" ad for carcinoid syndrome awareness topped Vanda’s introduction to akathisia by a score of 217-106. Merck’s new "Distractions" campaign for Belsomra thumped AbbVie’s hepatitis C ad for Mavyret by a vote of 174-141.

Next up is the Sweet 16, which will narrow the field to eight. It’s a quick round, so vote here through midnight on Tuesday and check back Wednesday to see which ads are moving on.

Round 3 (Vote here)


(1) Repatha vs. (4) Spiriva

Ad: Repatha "Emergency Worker Ghosts"
Company: Amgen
Happy family and dinner scenes are interrupted with flashing lights and sirens and the specters of emergency workers to help viewers imagine the dangers of sudden heart attack or stroke.

Ad: Spiriva Respimat "Bear Hug"
Company: Boehringer Ingelheim
Boehringer listened to patients who said asthma can feel like a crushing bear hug, bringing to life that imagery as a man tries to go about his daily life.

(6) Truvada vs. (7) Neurocrine 

Ad: Truvada "On the Pill"
Company: Gilead Sciences
Gilead started with an awareness campaign for HIV with "honest" talk about prevention and moved on later in the year to Truvada brand ads with real patients who talk about being "On the Pill."

Ad: "Talk About TD" for tardive dyskinesia awareness
Company: Neurocrine
The maker of Ingrezza introduced viewers to involuntary movement disorder tardive dyskinesia, a side effect of antipsychotic drugs.


(1) Enbrel vs. (4) Trelegy

Ad: Enbrel "Generations"
Company: Amgen
Enbrel brought the children of rheumatoid arthritis patients to the forefront in the campaign in which children, including Enbrel spokesman Phil Mickelson’s own kids, talk about how RA impacts their parent.

Ad: Trelegy "Easy as 1-2-3"
Company: GlaxoSmithKline
This ad uses a throwback soundtrack to Jackson 5’s “Easy as 1-2-3” to highlight Trelegy, a 3-in-1 inhaler medicine.

(2) Keytruda vs. (3) Dupixent

Ad: Dupixent "No Matter What"
Companies: Sanofi and Regeneron
A real patient stars in the debut ad for Dupixent, with tiny insects crawling all over her hands and poison ivy vines snaking up around her ankles to simulate what it feels like to have severe eczema.

Ad: Keytruda "Tru Stories"
Company: Merck
Patients tell the stories of their lung cancer and survival using Keytruda, with the latest ad also featuring an oncologist who talks along with his patient about success.


(4) Vraylar vs. (8) Aimovig

Ad: Vraylar "House of Cards"
Company: Allergan
Allergan highlighted the manic side of depression in this first of a series of TV ads depicting bipolar patients frantically taking on task after task, only to have the camera lens widen on the precariousness of the situation.

Ad: Aimovig "I Am Here"
Companies: Novartis and Amgen
A next-gen migraine treatment gets the full TV campaign debut with ads that push the value of being fully present for all of life’s ups and downs.

(3) Mucinex vs. (7) Dermira

Ad: Mucinex "#SuperSickMonday"
Company: RB
The Mucinex snot monster played off the Super Bowl, running ads before and after, to talk about “Super Sick Monday,” an actual phenomenon in which millions of people call in sick the day after the game.

Ad: "Check Your Sweat" awareness for hyperhydrosis
Company: Dermira
Dermira prepped for its Qbrexza launch with ads showcasing the tactics to avoid embarrassment used by people with excessive underarm sweating, like keeping their arms down and changing shirts.


(1) Belsomra vs. (4) Ofev

Ad: Belsomra "Distractions"
Company: Merck
Belsomra replaced its furry animal-like words campaign with a simpler approach to sleep issues, this time showing a woman dealing with sleep interruptions like lights turning on and phone notifications.

Ad: Ofev "Family Ties"
Company: Boehringer Ingelheim
The boxer son of an idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis patient narrates the commercial, talking about his dad’s fight with IPF and how he inspires him.

(2) Novartis vs. (6) Linzess

Ad: "Trash-Talking Wrestler" for carcinoid syndrome awareness
Company: Novartis
A miniaturized WWF-type wrestler pounds on a bare stomach in this ad to highlight the pain of a rare condition called carcinoid syndrome, caused by hormones released by tumors.

Ad: Linzess "Yes Linzess"
Companies: Allergan and Ironwood
This TV commercial shows a G-rated camera angle view of IBS-C sufferers in the bathroom, followed by a fist pump as they later celebrate success.