Johnson & Johnson's new Stelara 'UnstoppaBOLD' campaign zeroes in on empowerment and diversity

As Johnson & Johnson’s Stelara nears $10 billion in annual sales, the U.S. Big Pharma is going bold with a new DTC campaign for the immunology drug.

The "UnstoppaBOLD" campaign “is about patients being inspired to be bold and how taking control of their symptoms by seeking treatments, like Stelara, can affect the real daily moments in their lives,” explained Tara Muzsi, vice president of sales and marketing, gastroenterology at J&J biotech unit Janssen, in an interview.

She said feeling “UnstoppaBOLD” is “deliberate positioning,” because a person “should not feel confined to one place, waiting for their lurking disease to pounce.”

The idea is to show patients “can boldly break through barriers by having an open and honest conversation with their healthcare professional to find a treatment option that works best for them.” She added it is “deliberately brighter and inspirational” when compared to previous campaigns.

It’s also looking to be more diverse. “We designed the campaign to include authentic and diverse adults living with moderately to severely active Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis and their healthcare providers to represent the diverse patient population and real community,” Muzsi said.

She said that in the past, certain groups like Hispanics and other people of color were "left out” of conversations around inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Muzsi said studies show ulcerative colitis impacts more Hispanic people than any other racial group besides white individuals.

Further, Crohn’s disease impacts the Hispanic and Black populations more than any other non-white community.

“At Janssen, this representation was critical to include so that individuals living with IBD can see themselves reflected in the community; that is why all our DTC ads for this campaign will also be available in Spanish.”

This is an evolution of Janssen’s 2020 DTC campaign, when it launched the “Enough Crohn’s! Back off UC!” DTC campaign to encourage individuals with moderate to severe Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis to not back down from their relentless disease. It also builds on the “bold” theme inherent in its Tokyo Games campaign last summer.

Stelara made $9.1 billion last year, up a huge 18.5% on the $7.7 billion it saw in 2020. Besides Crohn's and ulcerative colitis, the IL-12- and IL-23-targeting drug is also approved for plaque psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

The treatment's first regulatory nod came in 2009 for plaque psoriasis. It competes in the huge immunology space dominated by AbbVie’s $20 billion-a-year Humira, which has similar approvals, and newcomers in the form of Sanofi and Regeneron’s Dupixent as well as Humira follow-ups from AbbVie in Rinvoq and Skyrizi.

All these pharmas have been spending big on DTC ads and campaigns. Until last year, Humira was consistently at the top of pharma’s TV drug ad spend, before being toppled in 2021 by Dupixent. Rinvoq and Skyrizi are also now comfortably in the top 10 spend for commercials, with Stelara also a consistent presence when it comes to TV ads.

A lot of campaigns for these conditions focus on the stigma that bowel diseases can often bring. Janssen said its BOLD campaign is focused on “empowerment” to break the stigma, which can also lead to delays in seeking treatment.

The first television ad from BOLD premiered April 3 during the Grammy awards show. “We are also looking forward to launching television ads in Spanish through our Univision partnership,” Muzsi added. And besides TV ads, the UnstoppaBOLD campaign will also be air through other platform “where we know patients are seeking information, such social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram,” Muzsi said.