Ready for some Toilet Talk? Allergan campaign encourages frank conversations about bowel health

Allergan's "Toilet Talk" campaign features the well-known pile of poo emoji in a toilet as a logo.

Allergan’s new "Toilet Talk" campaign seeks to normalize bowel health conversations—and the more candid, the better. As a host in one of its online videos asks as she walks down the Santa Monica Pier, “Who wants to talk to me about poop?”

Allergan came up with the idea for "Toilet Talk," which uses the smiling Poop emoji in a toilet as its logo, after a survey in conjunction with the American Gastroenterological Association found that people were reluctant to talk about bowel health issues. In fact, people typically suffered with gastrointestinal problems for more than a year before discussing them with their doctors.

TV talk show host Wendy Williams will be the spokesperson for "Toilet Talk" and will do social media posts and public relations events, including an already-completed launch media day that hosted a panel of experts to talk about IBS.

“She’s very honest and candid. She also likes to joke around and see the humor in things, so we thought that was all very important for a topic that can be taboo for some people. We want to get them comfortable and really normalize the conversation around bowel health,” Aimee Lenar, VP, gastroenterology at Allergan, said in an interview.

On the campaign website, Williams approaches random people to talk about their bowel health. “Do you mind coming with me and talking about poop?” she asks two women, trying to entice them to her interview area, which uses toilets as chairs. Eventually, several people do talk to her and admit being embarrassed about bowel and stomach problems and say they have hesitated in talking to their doctors. The website includes a questionnaire people can take and email to themselves to show their doctors.

Along with digital, social media and online elements, Allergan will distribute brochures and posters that its more than 1,000 sales reps will circulate among healthcare providers for them to share with patients.

“This is something our key opinion leaders, gastroenterologists and primary care physicians asked us for. They asked us to help them destigmatize IBS,” Lenar said.

April is national IBS Awareness month, and Allergan has two treatments—Viberzi for IBS with diarrhea, or IBS-D, and Linzess, which it co-markets with Ironwood, for IBS with constipation, or IBS-C. Both drugs have mass media advertising campaigns of their own that include big-budget TV and print ads, as well as digital and social strategies and even tech partnerships.