Novartis recruits Nick Cannon for double-whammy flu campaign

Nick Cannon

In choosing a face for its new Theraflu Fluprint campaign, Novartis ($NVS) Consumer Health was on the hunt for someone who understood the importance of being flu-ready--and who used Theraflu products, of course, company spokeswoman Liz Power told FiercePharmaMarketing.

It was an important selection for the drugmaker, which is looking for an OTC rebound after manufacturing issues forced a host of drugs off store shelves. Theraflu shipments for the U.S. market only resumed this July, it said in its Q2 filing.

Its choice? Nick Cannon, an actor, comedian, rapper, entrepreneur, record producer, radio and television personality and father of two.

"I'm constantly traveling and on-the go, so I can't afford to let cold and flu symptoms slow me down, especially when I'm working or taking care of my family. That's why I always stay flu-ready by getting vaccinated every year and having Theraflu products on-hand," he said in a statement.

It's a message the Swiss pharma wants consumers to internalize, too, and to help them do so, it's outlined a 5-step action plan to help get Americans flu-ready: Learn, Vaccinate, Prepare, Treat ("explore over-the-counter cold and flu medications including Theraflu products," Novartis suggests) and Share.

As for the plan's Learn component, Novartis has consumers covered. Its Theraflu Facebook page contains quizzes, infographics, a tracker for local flu levels and a product locator to help people find Theraflu products nearby. To top it off, for every Like the page gets, the Basel-based drugmaker will donate $1 to non-profit Families Fighting Flu.

"Novartis Consumer Health is working on this program because each year the flu strikes up to 20% of people across the U.S., and more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized for flu-related complications annually," Power told FiercePharmaMarketing.

While Novartis' consumer health unit returned to growth last year, its products could always use a little promotion. A series of foul-ups at the company's Lincoln, NE, plant--which manufactures Theraflu--has taken a toll on sales in recent years, with kinks there throwing off shipments of the flu treatment and other products. Now, though, Novartis' consumer offerings are primed to shine, thanks to a brand-new joint venture with GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) that will kick off next year.

Oh, and about that vaccination component of Novartis' plan? The company can help with that, too. After a parallel deal with Glaxo that saw the company ship off most of its vaccines portfolio, its flu shot offerings are all it has left in that department.

- read the release

Special Report: The top 10 pharma companies in social media - Novartis