AbbVie, Lilly, Pfizer lead pharma TV spending to roaring start in 2020

watching TV
The new year brought lots of pharma TV ad spending, with January top 10 spenders including AbbVie, Lilly and Pfizer topping $200 million in TV ad time. (Getty Images)

Pharma TV ad spending has started with a bang in 2020. Collectively topping $200 million, the biggest 10 TV time buyers spent more than $15 million each, with No. 1 Humira doling out more than $40 million in the first 30 days of the new year, according to data from real-time TV ad tracker iSpot.tv.

Yet while AbbVie TV ads for Humira held a commanding lead, three other drugs spent more than $20 million for the month: Eli Lilly’s diabetes medicine Trulicity, Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb anticoagulant Eliquis and another AbbVie drug—newer psoriasis fighter Skyrizi—which came in fourth place at $20.5 million.

New-to-the-list Roche flu medicine Xofluza added $17 million for the month; the drug was approved in 2018 and launched its first DTC work in October.

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The total January tally of $202 million is a whopping 50% increase over $133 million spent by the top 10 in December.

So what’s behind the big spender month? One factor is NFL football. January is the month of NFL playoffs, and those higher-than-average, more mainstream audiences come at premium price. In fact, three of the top five pharma companies spent heavily on football for the month. Still, not every brand bought football time, and while that media time is pricier, it’s not orders of magnitude more expensive.

Maybe the new year brought renewed ad budgets? That may be part of it, as January has tended to be one of the spendiest months for pharma TV. In January 2019, for instance, the top 10 totaled $172 million, and January 2018's big 10 tallied $183 million.

Still, $200-plus million is more than a 10% increase over even those typical big months. Could January 2020's record spend signal a coming gangbuster year for pharma TV advertising? Stay tuned!

1. Humira
Movement:
Stayed same
What is it? AbbVie anti-inflammatory drug
Total estimated spending: $40.5 million (up from $23 million in December)
Number of spots: Five (Two for arthritis, two for ulcerative colitis/Crohn's, one for psoriasis)
Biggest-ticket ad: “Body of Proof: Dog Walking” (est. $16.5 million)


2. Trulicity
Movement:
Up from No. 5 last month
What is it? Eli Lilly GLP-1 diabetes drug
Total estimated spending: $22.6 million (up from $12.3 million in December)
Number of spots: Two
Biggest-ticket ad: “Power: Picnic” (est. $21 million)


3. Eliquis
Movement:
Up from No. 7 last month
What is it? Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb next-gen anticoagulant
Total estimated spending: $21.3 million (up from $10 million in December)
Number of spots: Three
Biggest-ticket ad: "Travel" (est. $12.5 million)


4. Skyrizi
Movement:
Stayed same
What is it? AbbVie IL-23 next-gen psoriasis treatment
Total estimated spending: $20.5 million (up from $13.2 million in December)
Number of spots: Two
Biggest-ticket ad: “Nothing is Everything” (est. $17.4 million)


5. Xeljanz
Movement:
Down from No. 2 last month
What is it? Pfizer oral rheumatoid arthritis therapy
Total estimated spending: $19.1 million (down from $19.3 million in December)
Number of spots: Three
Biggest-ticket ad: "Needles: Sea Urchins" (est. $7.5 million)


6. Chantix
Movement:
Not on list last month
What is it? Pfizer smoking cessation med
Total estimated spending: $17.2 million
Number of spots: Four
Biggest-ticket ad: “Ice Skating Turkey” (est. $9 million)


7. Xofluza
Movement:
Not on list last month
What is it? Roche flu treatment
Total estimated spending: $17.1 million
Number of spots: One
Biggest-ticket ad: “The Flu Sucks Everything Out of You”


8. Otezla
Movement:
Up from No. 9 last month
What is it? Amgen oral treatment for plaque psoriasis
Total estimated spending: $15.1 million (up from $9.8 million in December)
Number of spots: Two
Biggest-ticket ad: "Little Things Can Be a Big Deal" (est. $9.2 million)


9. Ocrevus
Movement:
Not on list last month
What is it? Roche multiple sclerosis drug
Total estimated spending: $14.7 million
Number of spots: One
Biggest-ticket ad: “Dear MS"


10. Cosentyx
Movement:
Not on list last month
What is it? Novartis next-gen psoriasis medication
Total estimated spending: $10.9 million
Number of spots: Six (Five for psoriasis, one for psoriatic arthritis)
Biggest-ticket ad: "Four Years and Counting" (est. $5.3 million)
 

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