GSK debuts new fireball character for Prevacid OTC heartburn drug

Prevacid is just one brand GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare's OTC advertising has spotlighted recently.

There’s a new spokescharacter lurking around for Prevacid24. The animated ball of fire with a mischievous glint in its eye is the Lurker, and it's popping up in TV, digital and trade ads, and promotions for the heartburn-relieving drug.

In the TV ad that launched earlier this month, the character hides in the bushes as two women drink coffee and chat as they eat lunch on a nearby bench. The flame with legs never talks. It just giggles as it chases off one of the women, who didn’t take her heartburn medicine.

“Our Lurker character was developed to communicate the risk of recurrence of frequent heartburn,” a GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare spokeswoman said via email. “We explored several creative options and decided on the Lurker due to its ability to convey the idea in a truly engaging manner.”

Havas Adrenaline created the campaign; the target audience is people with frequent heartburn, which is defined as two or more days per week. GlaxoSmithKline licenses Prevacid from Takeda Pharmaceuticals.

Like the new advertising, the heartburn market has been hot in the past few years. That’s because top proton pump inhibitor drugs, including Prevacid, went OTC yet continued with their aggressive marketing strategies. Pfizer, which has the rights to OTC Nexium, has continued TV and online promotions, as has Procter & Gamble, which markets OTC Prilosec. AstraZeneca developed both drugs before licensing them out, and in 2015, went to court to protect the trademark color of the purple pills.

Prevacid is just one brand GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare's OTC advertising has spotlighted recently. This past fall, GSK tied headache relief medicine Excedrin to the presidential debates in a series of paid Twitter posts and took on sponsorship of the Flu Tracker on the Weather Channel. A GSK campaign for Excedrin Migraine last summer earned kudos for its use of virtual reality headsets to help loved ones understand the agony of migraines. Longer term, the spendy ad launch of OTC Flonase, which crossed over from prescription status, has helped with the successful debut of that medicine.

New CEO Brian McNamara, a Novartis exec who had joined the company in the Novartis and GSK asset swap in 2015, in September took the consumer division reins from Emma Walmsley, who became CEO of GlaxoSmithKline.