#FierceMadness winner Boehringer Ingelheim talks strategy, creative behind Ofev DTC ad

When Boehringer Ingelheim’s marketing team began work on a direct-to-consumer TV ad for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis treatment Ofev, it started with insights around bravery, hope and family.

And that work and those insights culminated in a spot featuring a young boxer and his father, celebrating the older man’s "grit, dedication and commitment" in his battle with IPF.

“With Ofev, you can show your fight—and even pass it on,” the boxer son says, following a series of scenes in which he and his father are training, working out and talking with obvious affection.

Last week, the ad itself fought its way to the top and won the #FierceMadness March Madness-style ad tournament, beating out 35 other pharma campaigns in the single-elimination bracket games. Several voters referenced the ad's positive messaging when explaining their picks.

“The storyline we chose is around patient insights and crafting a powerful storyline about a father and his fight against IPF and the positive impact it’s had on his son. It shows that those living with IPF really need to stand up against the disease with their loved ones,” Al Masucci, VP of the IPF business unit at Boehringer Ingelheim, said.

RELATED: Family ties: Boehringer's first TV ad for Ofev leans on loved ones' connections to IPF

The team, which also included Richard Azan, executive director for Ofev marketing, Renee Giangrasso, senior associate director for Ofev marketing and creative agency Wunderman, considered more than a dozen concepts before settling on the boxing idea, Masucci said.

“It paints the picture of going up against something and taking a proactive approach when you’re essentially going into battle,” he said. “You’re preparing yourself for the fight against IPF and having others support you in that battle.”

The #FierceMadness winner also came in with an nontraditional media plan. The TV ad ran only on addressable TV, using set-top boxes for DirecTV and Comcast to serve the ad to specific consumer targets. BI leveraged technology to microtarget geographically and demographically, Masucci said. The ad ran from January through March of this year.

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What happens next with the ad and campaign is still under discussion. The team will evaluate the DTC campaign feedback and return on investment to determine next steps, but Masucci did say it's working on digital and mobile elements amid broader ongoing plans for Ofev. BI plans to continue its aggressive unbranded awareness work under its “Breathless” umbrella campaign, which includes work with spokesman Bernie Williams, a former MLB player whose father suffered from IPF.

Ofev competes with Roche drug Esbriet in the IPF market, which analysts expect to continue to grow with an increasing geriatric population. Symptoms of IPF begin to occur at the age of 50 to 70 in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health. BI recorded Ofev sales of €531 million for the first six months of 2018, a currency-adjusted increase of 35%, the company said. It will release full-year results on April 17.