The winners are in for the play-in first round of the #FierceMadness DTC tournament. And similarly to the first weekend of real NCAA March Madness tournament play, it featured close calls, blowouts and surprises.
In the cardiology/oncology division, the voice of God beat out McDreamy in a not-even-close battle of the PSAs. It seems the win for Roche's “Stand Up to Cancer” over Amgen's "Breakaway from Cancer" came down mainly to the Swiss drugmaker's spokesman, as many voters named him in the comments. As one succinctly explained the choice: “Morgan Freeman. Duh.”
In other mismatched voting results, Gilead’s “I am Ready” campaign for Harvoni handily beat AstraZeneca’s Farxiga ad "For Athletes" by capturing more than two-thirds of the votes. Some commenters didn’t love AZ's same-old approach of using sports or athletes, while others argued that the hepatitis C cure promise of Harvoni alone warranted a win. “Who can argue with curing something so significant? Hard to screw that message up,” one voter wrote.
The remaining two contests were much closer. In the corporate and disease awareness division, Vanda’s “New Day” awareness ad for Non-24 disease edged out celebrity quarterback Joe Montana's push to fight heart disease. Voters called "New Day" “inspiring” and said it “tugs at the heart,” while deeming Breakaway “boring.” Cynicism may have also played a role in this win, though. One med school attendee noted that they had never heard of Non-24, while another voter wrote, “It's a TV commercial for blind people. That's incredible.”
Not surprisingly, the miscellaneous division matchup between Valeant Jublia’s toe fungus spokescharacter and Pfizer's Viagra single pack women sparked the most commentary. The love 'em or hate 'em vibe was strong, with comments such as, “I hate the Viagra commercials” interspersed with “The Toe is ugly!”
Ultimately, though, the winner was Viagra, which just edged out Jublia by winning 51% of the votes cast.
Now, it's onto the main event. Round 2 voting starts today, with 32 ads to review in deciding contests across four divisions. This is a quick turnaround play though, so vote early—polls close at midnight ET on Tuesday. Winners will move on to the Sweet 16, which we’ll announce on Wednesday. Still haven't filled out your bracket yet? It's not too late to start playing. You can find a printable one to fill out here.
Ad: “Flooded Room” heart failure disease awareness
Launched around the same time as its heart failure drug Entresto, Novartis’ “horrifying” ad, according to cardiologists, depicted a man in an armchair reading a newspaper, unaware as the room fills with water. The TV ad ran only two months.
Ad: Entresto “Tomorrow”
The DTC launch for Entresto began just after “Flood” ended, and it portrayed older people crooning the “Annie” Broadway show tune “Tomorrow” as an analogy for the drug’s possibility to make more tomorrows possible.
Ad: Pradaxa “Red Fish”
Company: Boehringer Ingelheim
Boehringer Ingelheim’s swimming red fish as representative of red blood cells illustrated how those cells move and sometimes clot when traveling between the heart and brain.
Ad: MegaRed fish oil “Dancers”
Company: Reckitt Benckiser
Dozens of synchronized dancers in matching-colored unitards moved together to form a pink heart, then a yellow fish and finally a red arrow in work from McCann Humancare to create a visually appealing message about the OTC drug’s ease of absorption.
Ad: Opdivo “Most prescribed immunotherapy”
Company: Bristol-Myers Squibb
BMS pioneered TV ads for cancer treatments with Opdivo in 2015, then followed it up with a new campaign in spring 2016 touting both the fact that a PD-L1 biomarker isn’t needed for Opdivo patients and that its drug was the most-prescribed in the field.
Ad: “Ready. Raise. Rise” immuno-oncology awareness
Company: Bristol-Myers Squibb
BMS snagged “Modern Family” TV star Eric Stonestreet to raise awareness for cancer immunotherapies in an online effort that encouraged people to honor a friend or loved one by raising virtual flags in their names.
Ad: “Queen Latifah Live” heart disease awareness
Actress Queen Latifah, Novartis’ “Rise About It” spokeswoman, took her dedication to heart disease awareness, inspired by her mother, to social media with a Facebook Live session on World Heart Day and follow-up appearances to draw attention to early intervention.
Ad: “Stand Up to Cancer” PSA with Morgan Freeman
Company: Roche’s Genentech
Actor Morgan Freeman stood up with a cancer patient in this public service campaign sponsored by Genentech to drive people to get screened and get involved in prevention and clinical trials.
Ad: “Before it Became a Medicine” corporate campaign
Pfizer scientists took center stage in a corporate reputation effort that depicted the long and arduous process from idea to lifesaving drug, all through the eyes of a grateful patient.
Ad: “Innovation Saves” industry campaign
Company: BIO trade organization
The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) tackled the sticky drug-pricing issue in an industry campaign featuring patients and families whose lifesaving treatments also saved healthcare system costs.
Ad: “Face Your Risk” food allergy awareness
Months before Mylan’s EpiPen pricing scandal, it bowed an ultrarealistic TV campaign around peanut allergies that shows the panic and life-threatening progression of anaphylaxis after a young woman accidentally eats peanut butter at a party.
Ad: “PBA Facts” disease awareness with Danny Glover
Avanir tapped actor Danny Glover as spokesman for an unbranded campaign to shed light on the little-known condition called pseudobulbar affect (PBA), which can cause uncontrolled laughter or crying jags.
Ad: Trumenba “How Did We Get Here?”
Pfizer’s first effort for meningococcal group B vaccine Trumenba laid out the scary repercussions of the disease as a mom watches over her son in a hospital bed—and then flashes back to his night at a party sharing food and drinks, and kissing a girl.
Ad: “Big Bad Wolf” whooping cough vaccination
A grandma who morphed into a scary wolf grabbed attention in GSK’s push to encourage grandparents to get vaccinated for whooping cough lest they become a “big bad wolf” to infant grandchildren.
Ad: “Actually She Can” female health awareness
Girl power stars in Allergan’s unbranded multimedia campaign with purple-haired spokes-character Violet, hashtags and emojis, all in support of women sharing information about healthcare, including contraceptive options.
Ad: “New Day” non-24 disease awareness
Company: Vanda Pharmaceutical
Vanda's ads explained non-24, a circadian rhythm sleep disorder that affects blind people, causing them to confuse day and night.
Ad: Linzess “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know”
Company: Allergan and Ironwood Pharmaceuticals
In its third campaign for Linzess, Allergan and Ironwood took a more arresting creative approach, using stop-motion techniques to draw attention to its message of possible relief for people who have tried “everything” for IBS with constipation.
Ad: Viberzi “Irritabelle”
Quirky redhead Irritabelle plays the role of irritating symptoms of IBS-D in a young woman’s life, distracting her and interfering with her plans, in Allergan’s first TV marketing for Viberzi.
Ad: “Superhero Comic Books” for IBD disease awareness
Partnering with Marvel comics, Takeda created a new superhero and cast of characters to fight the good fight against inflammatory bowel disease in both digital and custom-published comic books.
Ad: “Envy” OIC disease awareness
Company: AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo
Debuting during the 2016 Super Bowl, AstraZeneca and Daiichi's TV spot drew attention to the problem of opioid-induced constipation via a man who envied “everyone who can go.” The ad drew fierce backlash from media pundits and even the White House.
Ad: Xifaxan “Gut Guy”
The now-familiar happy, walking pink bundle of intestines marked the debut of Valeant’s Xifaxan IBS-D treatment with TV ads that triggered love and hate on social media.
Ad: Entyvio “Bathroom Doors”
Takeda took a different view for its new biologic IBS treatment Entyvio, with ads that showed what sufferers see most often—the inside of bathroom doors—while they’re missing out on fun or important life events.
Ad: Cosentyx “See Me”
While most ads feature actors, Novartis tapped real plaque psoriasis patients talking to the camera and asking that people see past their condition in its ads for new biological treatment Cosentyx.
Ad: Harvoni “I Am Ready”
Promising the very real possibility of a cure for people with hepatitis C, Gilead launched an anthemic bid to grab attention and market share for its then-rising star Harvoni.
Ad: “Eyelove” dry eye awareness
Well-known actress Jennifer Aniston confesses to her eye drop addiction in Shire's unbranded campaign that targeted women who use drops several times a day.
Ad: Xiidra “ii’s word”
Following up on its successful unbranded dry eye awareness ads, Shire launched branded treatment Xiidra with clever word-play on the double-i in the name, as in "Hii" and "Niice to meet you."
Ad: Excedrin “Migraine Simulator”
GSK took empathy to a new level in a powerful set of virtual reality demonstrations that gave simulated migraine headaches to sufferers' loved ones using VR headsets.
Ad: Zostavax “Lurking Inside”
Tapping older people's fear of shingles, Merck added to its already-running humor campaign—with athlete Terry Bradshaw—with new ads using a darker scenario and a snarky voice warning of the potential disease lurking inside.
Ad: Kybella “Ancestors”
Using heredity instead of weight or aging, Allergan cleverly depicts, with turtlenecks and high collars, the potential need for its double-chin treatment Kybella, thanks to the dear old family tree.
Ad: Botox “Don’t take it lying down”
Botox is better known as an aesthetic treatment for aging lines and wrinkles, but Allergan added advertising this year that reminded consumers of its approved therapeutic use to treat chronic migraines.
Ad: Prezcobix “Wisdom”
Company: Johnson & Johnson Janssen
Janssen took real patients' words of wisdom and empowerment and, with the help of artist Sean Williams, transformed those words into stylized purple images of people.
Ad: Viagra “Straight Talk-Single Packs"
The women in dark blue dresses started talking directly to men about Viagra and erectile dysfunction almost three years ago but this year added marketing around new single-pack dosing to the mix.