Roche's Genentech bows new animated ad campaign for flu med Xofluza

Roche's Genentech wants to put people on watch for winter flu surges—even during a pandemic.

Its new DTC campaign for influenza med Xofluza sticks to the one-dose-to-feel-better message debuted in its first ad push but acknowledges the COVID-19 pandemic in a postscript.

A pair of TV commercials includes one that's 15 seconds longer. The ad takes that extra time to remind viewers that it can be difficult to tell the difference between the flu and COVID-19. The voice-over advises anyone with flu-like symptoms to contact a healthcare provider. 

That emphasis was important to get through to consumers, said Laura Sullivan, Xofluza's marketing director. The pharma wanted to ensure viewers understand Xofluza doesn't treat COVID-19.

The new TV ads are part of a multichannel campaign that includes print, digital and in-office ads running in all 50 states. The broad campaign is needed, because flu awareness is still important even during the pandemic, Sullivan said.

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While the flu ”infects between 9.3 million and 49 million Americans each year, public awareness of prescription treatment options remains low,” she said.

The new spots, titled “Icons," feature the hallmarks of pandemic advertising—animation, telehealth and a Zoom call.

The new effort is a far cry from Xofluza's first DTC effort in 2019, called “The Flu Sucks Everything Out of You.” That campaign's TV ads featured a sick teacher at her desk, in front of a full classroom of students. She vanishes, leaving only her flat clothes behind, to symbolize how flu makes her feel. The stark difference between now and then? It's hard to imagine anyone going to work with those kinds of symptoms.

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“Both spots were developed to capture the emotional experience of the flu. We felt it was important to evolve the creative for the ‘20/’21 flu season, giving a nod to the realities of suffering from the flu and seeking flu treatment in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Sullivan said in an email interview. 

Xofluza, Roche’s update to its blockbuster Tamiflu, first won FDA approval in 2018, and in 2020 it gained a prevention nod to fend off the flu after contact with an infected person. The company is working toward approval for a granule formula for those under the age of 12 with uncomplicated flu. Currently, that form is only approved the same as the tablet dose.