As Novo Nordisk boosts Wegovy, Ozempic ad spend, analysis finds 'a rising tide lifts all boats' for diabetes, weight-loss drugs

As Novo Nordisk boosts spending on its drug-of-the-moment Wegovy, other obesity and diabetes drugs are drafting behind.  

That’s according to a new report out by data analysts at MediaRadar, which have combed through a sampling of weight-loss-related and diabetes drug advertising spend.

This includes looking at national TV and print, top newspapers and online channels such as websites, streaming channels, podcasts, social platforms and YouTube, with the data spanning the first half of the year.

The report found that up until the end of July, $491 million was invested in advertising diabetes and weight loss prescriptions, marking a 21% year-on-year increase from $405 million at the same midpoint of 2022.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the top four prescriptions in these categories were Novo’s semaglutide GLP-1 franchise of injectable diabetes med Ozempic, oral therapy Rybelsus and its anti-obesity shot Wegovy as well as Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim’s diabetes drug Jardiance. Together, these companies accounted for $358 million in ad sales, which is nearly three quarters (73%) of the total spend in their prescription categories.

MediaRadar found that ad spend increased by 23% for Ozempic, 38% for Rybelsus and more than 1,000% for Wegovy. Ozempic and Rybelsus had a combined ad spend of $245 million.

Both Wegovy and Ozempic have seen a major boost in public awareness after a series of celebrities, including X owner Elon Musk, have been talking up these meds as having helped them lose weight.

This has in fact caused problems for Novo, which did dial back some marketing plans for the drugs earlier this year to curtail demand while also trying to stop the incorrect use of its meds. That's because Ozempic is licensed only for diabetes and not weight loss, though that can be a side effect and has been used for that purpose. 

Wegovy has also seen a major bump in demand that Novo has this year sometimes struggled to cope with. But all this attention, notably on Ozempic and the added commercial spend, is acting as a catalyst for other drugs in this area.

“As Ozempic becomes more prominent, we observe a positive impact on other similar medications,” said Todd Krizelman, CEO of MediaRadar, in a press release. “It's a classic case of 'a rising tide lifts all boats.' As Ozempic's popularity grows, so does the demand for other weight loss and diabetes drugs, especially Wegovy, which has made a significant mark this year, particularly from Q2 onwards.”

The report also drilled down into how members of the U.S. public are seeing these ads and found that, so far in 2023, both TV and video remain the primary ad channels, with all four top prescriptions heavily investing in TV or online video advertising.

In particular, Ozempic stands out by allocating 41% of its advertising budget to online video platforms, such as streaming services, which represents a remarkable year-on-year increase of over 1,000%. Conversely, as evidenced by iSpot.TV's monthly TV drug advertising data, its investment in television advertising has experienced a contrasting decline of 23% compared to the previous year.

When examining Novo's other two medications, Rybelsus allocated 66% of its budget to TV advertisements, with 30% allocated to video advertising, while the remaining 4% was divided between display and print. On the other hand, Wegovy's advertising budget was primarily directed to online video, accounting for 96% of its total expenditure.

Finally, Jardiance's ad spend was 94% TV-focused, with 3% on display, 2% on streaming platforms and the remaining 1% divided between video and native content.