Pfizer the biggest TV drug ad spender at the Oscars, as HHS also spends big on COVID messaging

While Novo Nordisk’s diabetes drug Ozempic was the talk of the town, it was Pfizer that spent the most on TV drug ads at this year’s Oscars.

That’s according to new data out from real-time trackers at iSpot.TV, which estimates that the Big Pharma spent $5.7 million on its new COVID-19 drug ad: “If it’s COVID, it’s Paxlovid” during a single Oscars airing on Sunday, March 12. 

This put Pfizer, which was also a sponsor of the event, at the top of list of five major companies and one government agency that spent big on TV ads during the biggest event in Hollywood.

Pfizer was also joint second with its second COVID ad of the night: “A Whole Different Ball Game,” featuring, fittingly, a load of celebrities, including P!nk, Questlove, Michael Phelps and Jean Smart.

Pfizer spent $3.8 million on that spot, the exact same figure ViiV Healthcare spent on its HIV PreP drug Apretude’s TV Spot, “Prep Without Pills."

In fourth was an unusual entrant: Not a pharma company, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its TV Spot, “Updated COVID Protection.”

The agency spent $1.9 million on the 30-second COVID awareness ad that aims, with no pharma branding, to get people to think about signing up for the latest COVID boosters amid “fading protection”.

Last but not least is Novartis and its commercial for breast cancer drug Kisqali “Long Live”. The Big Pharma spent just shy of $1 million on the single spot.

In all we saw $14.2 million spent on these ads for the Oscars but it was, strangely enough, Novo’s Ozempic that took center stage when host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel singled out for one of his jokes, quipping: “When I look around this room, I can’t help but wonder, ‘Is Ozempic right for me?’”

This is a reference to its frequent, off-label use as a weight-loss drug for celebrities. The drug is actually only licensed for diabetes; Novo’s actual weight-loss drug is Wegovy, so the pharma was likely not laughing along.