Merck bumps Keytruda credibility with real doctor appearance in latest ‘Tru’ patient ads

Merck & Co. is changing the game again in oncology ads, this time putting a real doctor to work in its Keytruda patient campaign. The latest additions to the multichannel "It's Tru" work include two TV ads, one with oncologist Goetz Kloecker, M.D., alone and a second where he appears with his lung cancer patient Katy.

In the solo ad, Kloecker’s voiceover is heard as he walks the halls of a hospital, meets with colleagues and patients, works behind a computer and teaches in a large classroom.

“It’s an encouraging time to be treating advanced lung cancer. Treatments like Keytruda with chemotherapy really break through barriers that we had not too many years ago,” he says.

Near the beginning of the ad, text appears on the screen that reads, “Dr. Kloecker has been compensated for his time.”

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In the second TV commercial with Katy, Kloecker appears as more of a bit player, sitting with Katy to talk about her treatment and saying, as he also does in the first ad, that Keytruda has “changed my approach to treating patients.”

Katy talks about her experience after being diagnosed with advanced non-small cell lung cancer last year. She is the fourth patient and third appearing as themselves in Merck’s “It’s Tru” campaign, which began in January 2017.

A Merck spokeswoman said in an email about that the new work is based on direct feedback from patients. "We felt it was helpful to share a real-world example of the doctor-patient relationship, its impact on treatment decisions and the physician perspective on treatment options," the spokeswoman said. "We firmly believe that the ultimate decision to prescribe treatments for any specific patient remains with the physician, following a discussion with his or her patient.”

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Katy is being treated with Keytruda in combination with Alimta and platinum chemotherapy in a first-line regimen for her specific type of lung cancer, the spokeswoman said.

In the two years since Merck first began advertising Keytruda on TV, it has spent $234 million on national TV ad buys, according to data from real-time TV ad tracker

Merck is among several immunotherapy cancer drug makers who have taken their marketing messages to mainstream TV. Bristol-Myers Squibb launched a TV campaign in September 2015, but has since halted TV ads; none have aired since July 2018. BMS spent $235 million on Opdivo TV ads in those three years, according to the data. Other cancer drug makers currently airing ads include Pfizer’s Ibrance and Eli Lilly’s Verzenio, as well as related cancer patient treatments such as white blood cell booster Neulasta from Amgen.