J&J opts for bolder, darker tone in new Tremfya ads to reflect real-life patient struggles

Johnson & Johnson is changing up the look and tone for psoriasis med Tremfya's advertising to reflect patients' real-life experiences.

The more somber, darkly lit TV ads vividly depict the shackles of psoriatic arthritis and the burning ember pain of plaque psoriasis in the latest commercials from J&J's Janssen unit. The work is based on actual patient insights about what it feels like to live with the conditions and is "deliberately bold," Anthony Fernandez, vice president of marketing for Janssen immunology, said.

“Many patients, in their own words, feel trapped in a body that does not feel like their own," he said. "While other campaigns in the category focus on life after treatment, we feel that it's equally important—if not more important—to acknowledge the realities of psoriatic disease."

J&J uses a play on the brand name in the campaign to encourage patients to "emerge Tremfyant."

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Eight million people in the U.S. and 125 million worldwide live with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, he said. Psoriatic arthritis alone affects around 1.5 million people nationwide, and 80% also have active psoriasis.

Janssen's immunology ambitions go far beyond those two indications, too. The company is investing in research and development for other immunology diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s. It has 21 first-in-class programs either in phase 2 or phase 3 trials, Fernandez said.

Tremfya added its psoriatic arthritis indication in July, making it the first IL-23 inhibitor to be approved for the condition. The drug was first approved to treat psoriasis in 2017.

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With so many people affected by psoriasis, it’s no surprise there are many drugs—and a lot of marketing—aimed at the condition.

The competitive category includes a handful of big DTC advertisers. AbbVie's Skyrizi is another IL-23 inhibitor and direct Tremfya competitor, while IL-17 inhibitors Novartis' Cosentyx and Eli Lilly's Taltz are both prolific marketers. A third IL-17 drug, Siliq from Valeant, has not yet launched a consumer campaign.

Meanwhile, TNF inhibitors such as AbbVie's Humira and Amgen's Enbrel are well-established DTC marketers in both plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Amgen's Otezla, a PDE4 inhibitor previously owned by Celgene, also advertises in both conditions.