Pfizer, targeting a younger demographic, enlists yet another celeb for its latest COVID vaccine ad

Pfizer has enlisted yet another celebrity to push its flagging COVID-19 vaccine franchise. After targeting seniors with its Martha Stewart wields a samurai sword spot, the Big Pharma has swung to the opposite end of the age spectrum with an ad featuring a singer who first made their name on YouTube.

In the 30-second ad, Charlie Puth, a 31-year-old singer with 21 million TikTok followers, steps out of a car wearing sunglasses, at night, and walks into a music venue flanked by a security guard. Once on the stage, Puth, now sans sunglasses and sitting behind a keyboard, says “out on tour, I got to help protect myself.”

The security guard puffs himself up after hearing that—but Puth quickly reveals a different meaning, gesturing to a blue bandage on his arm while saying, “that's why I got this guy,” much to the chagrin of the man tasked with protecting him from physical threats. 

As Puth explains, the “guy” protecting him on tour is “a new updated COVID-19 booster designed for better protection against recent omicron variants.” The spot closes out with Puth swinging round to tell his security guard, “you're still my guy. I love you, buddy” before starting to play the keyboard. As in the Stewart video, the ad ends with the words “got booster?” popping up on screen.

Pfizer has put Puth at the heart of its attempts to court a younger demographic, with the latest spot following a Twitter video in which the star discussed his tour checklist—and revealed he had received his updated COVID-19 booster because “it’s important to prioritize my health while on tour.”

The Big Pharma is pushing its vaccine to young and old alike to soften the anticipated slump in Comirnaty sales. Management expects the COVID-19 vaccine to bring in $13.5 billion this year, well down on the $36 billion-plus that it generated in 2021 and 2022. With the U.S. switching to a commercial model for COVID-19 vaccines, branding and promotion could become increasingly important for Comirnaty. 

Speaking to investors last month, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Ph.D. said the promotion of Comirnaty and Paxlovid is contributing to increased spending, explaining that the company is “going very hard with promotions, TV, field forces and all the other educational measures” now that the products are moving into commercial channels. 

Pfizer has responded to the changing COVID-19 space with a celeb-heavy push. Sandwiched between the Stewart and Puth spots, the drugmaker ran an ad featuring musical artist Pink; drummer, filmmaker and singer Questlove; actor Jean Smart; and Olympic gold medalist swimmer Michael Phelps that discussed the dangers COVID-19 poses to different people without explicitly promoting Pfizer’s products.