Pfizer runs away with pharma brand ad-spending crown, Nielsen data shows

Pfizer
Pfizer led the top branded spending for Lyrica, with $174 million on fibromyalgia ads and another $170 million advertising its indication for diabetes-related pain, for a total of $344 million.

Pharma companies’ ad spending jumped again last year to $5.6 billion, up from $5.2 billion in 2015, according to Nielsen data. And Pfizer is in large part to thank.

The drugmaker led the top branded spending for Lyrica, with $174 million on fibromyalgia ads and another $170 million advertising its indication for diabetes-related pain, for a total of $344 million. Lyrica was trailed by another Pfizer drug, rheumatoid arthritis-fighter Xeljanz, at $189 million, and Eli Lilly’s diabetes treatment Trulicity, with $185 million spent. And Pfizer didn't stop there; five of the top nine meds with the highest spending are Pfizer brands.

Yet it’s likely that AbbVie’s Humira beat them all when combining branded spending across indications. Nielsen calculates each Humira ad spend separately for arthritis, colitis/Crohn’s disease and psoriasis, and it did not release those numbers. However, according to real-time TV tracker iSpot.tv, AbbVie spent $344 million on national TV ads alone for those three indications.

The 2016 tally sets a record, beating Nielsen's previous high total of $5.4 billion set in 2006. That's also without digital, which Nielsen's tally does not include. That means traditional pharma ad spending increased 7.7%. 

The spending uptick comes as no surprise to some industry watchers, given the number of new brands in the advertising mix. 

"The diabetes category has exploded in advertising and that is part of the rise," Bob Ehrlich, chairman-CEO of DTC Perspectives, said in an interview.

And he expects that trend to continue. “I see no slowdown in 2017 based on external factors in Washington. Any changes in the ACA will take a few years to implement. The FDA will not make it harder to do DTC.”

He added that he wouldn’t be surprised to see pharma ad spending get to $6 billion in spending in 2017.

Last year’s top spender, Eli Lilly’s erectile dysfunction drug Cialis, dropped to eighth place with $133 million spent. New to the list was Bristol-Myers Squibb cancer fighter Opdivo, spurred by its controversial mass media marketing approach.

The full top 10 list, as ranked by Nielsen:

Pfizer, Xeljanz: $189 million

Eli Lilly & Co., Trulicity: $185 million

Pfizer, Lyrica for fibromyalgia: $174 million

Bristol-Myers Squibb, Opdivo: $170 million

Pfizer, Lyrica for diabetes: $170 million

GlaxoSmithKline, Breo Ellipta: $154 million

Pfizer, Chantix: $144 million

Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eliquis: $141 million

Eli Lilly & Co., Cialis: $133 million

Pfizer, Viagra: $132 million