DTC #FierceMadness hits the Sweet 16 as Gut Guy, Irritabelle and show tunes bite the dust

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#FierceMadness DTC ad tournament Sweet 16 are in with disease awareness winning big.

DTC #FierceMadness' fast and furious two-day Round 2 matchups have carved the pharma ad field down to 16, with disease awareness emerging as a winning theme. In every contest between awareness and branded advertising, the former won the day.

In cardiovascular/oncology, for example, Novartis’ "Flooded Room" heart disease awareness ad that preceded its launch for Entresto beat the branded Entresto work, which featured seniors singing the Annie show tune “Tomorrow.”

Split 199-175, commenters were still torn over the winner. Several noted the awareness ad was too scary—it actually was pulled off the air after just two months amid similar complaints from cardiologists—while others thought the visual hit a chord. One commenter said it's "so accurate to how these patients feel. Medical professionals in my family love it.”

In other notable matchups, voters were clear in their dislike of IBD spokescharacters. Viberzi’s Irritabelle in a unitard went down to Linzess’ "fresh creative" and “artsy” visuals, while Xifaxan's Gut Guy—essentially walking intestines—lost out to Entyvio’s bathroom door campaign.

As one commenter wrote about Viberzi, "I know IBS is irritating, but this commercial inflicts on the viewer."

In the big battle of industry image ads, Pfizer’s “Before it Became a Medicine” tale of the drug development process topped BIO’s “Innovation Saves” message by 352-182. Voters liked the friendliness of the Pfizer ad, with one noting that it "humanizes the scientists."

And yes, Morgan Freeman made it through another round, the only play-in to advance, as spokesman in the inspiring “Stand Up to Cancer” effort from Roche's Genentech unit. That's despite tougher first-round competition from the also well-liked Queen Latifah heart disease awareness effort.

A common theme? Notes like "Morgan Freeman for the win, although I do like Queen Latifah."

Check out all the winners below and then log in to vote through to the next round. Voting for the Elite 8 is now open through Sunday at midnight EDT. Winners will be announced Monday.


Ad: “Flooded Room” heart failure disease awareness
Company: Novartis
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: 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: “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: “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.

Corporate/Disease Awareness

Ad: “Before it Became a Medicine” corporate campaign
Company: Pfizer
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: “Face Your Risk” food allergy awareness
Company: Mylan
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: “Big Bad Wolf” whooping cough vaccination
Company: GlaxoSmithKline
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
Company: Allergan
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: 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: “Superhero Comic Books” for IBD disease awareness
Company: Takeda 
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: Entyvio “Bathroom Doors”
Company: Takeda
Takeda took a different view for its new biologic IBD 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”
Company: Novartis
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: “Eyelove” dry eye awareness
Company: Shire
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: Excedrin “Migraine Simulator”
Company: GlaxoSmithKline
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: Botox “Don’t take it lying down”
Company: Allergan
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.