Merck rolls first Gardasil TV commercial that pushes HPV vaccines for adults

Merck is now promoting Gardasil 9 in DTC ads aimed at adults. The HPV vaccine was approved for ages 27-45 in 2018. (Merck)

After years of encouraging parents to vaccinate their kids against HPV, Merck & Co. is launching its first Gardasil campaign aimed at adults.

The TV commercial features a man getting ready to run in a 5K race raising money for cancer. He talks to a woman who appears to be in cancer treatment—she's wearing a scarf to cover her head—and then walks to the starting line as the voice-over says, "I've seen how cancer can affect the people I care about. That's why I'm helping protect myself against some cancers, like certain cancers caused by HPV.”

It's part of a DTC campaign aimed at adults ages 27-45, which includes placements on broadcast, cable, syndication and streaming platform as well as YouTube. Print ads and promotional placement in doctors' offices and pharmacies are also in the mix. Merck plans to extend the campaign through social media, Facebook, Twitter and online digital advertising.

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“Our goal is to educate adult consumers about the potential risk for certain HPV-related cancers and diseases, and to build awareness around the fact that Gardasil 9 is also approved for use in appropriate adults through the age of 45,” a Merck spokesperson said in an email.

The Gardasil 9 vaccine works to prevent nine strains of the HPV virus, including two strains believed to cause 70% of cervical cancers. The drug was approved for the older age range in October 2018. In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended vaccination for adults who had not been properly vaccinated as adolescents.

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Gardasil 9 is the only vaccine marketed in the U.S. to prevent certain HPV-related cancers and diseases. Before it was approved in the older age range, it had won green lights in girls and young women aged 9-26 and boys 9-15 years old.

Merck previously ran HPV vaccine awareness campaigns aimed at parents of adolescents in a five-year effort that ended last year. The first ads—"Did You Know?"—featured adolescents questioning their parents and drew media attention and debate over whether they were too tough on parents.