Pharma's 2019 TV spending ticks up—barely—thanks to big Humira growth

TV watcher image
While TV watchers saw more pharma brand in commercials in 2019, overall total category spending was flat. (3dman_eu)

Pharma TV spending held steady in 2019, finishing the year with a total for the category at $3.79 billion, according to data from real-time TV ad tracker That's just a notch higher than the $3.73 billion tally in 2018 for pharma brand commercials.

But there was one major jump—and one reason overall spending didn’t actually sink in 2019—and that's the big spending by AbbVie on TV ads for its anti-inflammatory Humira.

Humira TV spending increased by almost $100 million in 2019, the data show, with $465 million laid out on TV time across its three indications. That’s an increase of 24% over the $375 million it spent in 2018.

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Coming in second for the year was Pfizer’s Xeljanz at $186 million—a decrease of $23 million from the previous year—followed by Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Eliquis at $145 million, an increase of $9 million over 2018.

The most notable departures among the top 20 year-over-year spenders? Pfizer’s Lyrica. While it was the second-largest pharma TV ad spender in 2018 with $213 million in media buys, the brand accounted for just $6 million in 2019 as it lost patent exclusivity.

Another brand with a marked spending decrease was Merck & Co.’s immuno-oncology drug Keytruda, dropping from $107 million in 2018 to just $33 million spent in 2019. With its sales going gangbusters, perhaps the brand figured it didn't need more help.

Among the new brands in the top 20 were Gilead Sciences' HIV PrEP drug Truvada and Novo Nordisk’s GLP-1 diabetes treatment Ozempic. Both brands first began advertising on TV in mid-2018. Other newcomer top 20 spending brands were Eli Lilly's Emgality, Gilead’s Biktarvy, Sanofi and Regeneron’s Dupixent, AbbVie’s Orilissa and Amgen’s Aimovig—all with first TV advertising debuts in 2018 or later.

Overall, there were more pharma brands on TV in 2019 with about 72 compared to 66 in 2018, according to the iSpot categorized data.

See the full list of the top 20 TV ad spenders below, courtesy of

  1. AbbVie's Humira: $465 million*
  2. Pfizer's Xeljanz: $186 million
  3. Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Eliquis: $145 million
  4. Gilead Sciences' Truvada: $143 million
  5. Eli Lilly's Trulicity: $127 million
  6. Novo Nordisk's Ozempic: $123 million
  7. Bayer and Johnson & Johnson's Xarelto: $122 million
  8. Novartis' Cosentyx: $115 million
  9. Eli Lilly's Emgality: $112.7 million
  10. Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly's Jardiance: $112.6 million
  11. Amgen's (formerly Celgene's) Otezla: $106 million
  12. Sunovion's Latuda: $86 million
  13. Otsuka and Lundbeck's Rexulti: $84 million
  14. Allergan's Botox: $84 million*
  15. Gilead Sciences' Biktarvy: $81 million
  16. Pfizer's Ibrance: $78 million
  17. Sanofi and Regeneron's Dupixent: $76 million
  18. AbbVie's Orilissa: $73 million
  19. Amgen's Enbrel: $70.1 million
  20. Amgen's Aimovig: $69.6 million

*Total spending across multiple indications

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