Takeda says Ka-Pow! to IBD in new Marvel comics campaign

The latest Marvel-created superhero, Samarium, has the power to suit up instantly in magnetic and impenetrable full-body armor. But like most superheroes, he also has a secret. And in this Takeda Pharmaceuticals-sponsored comic, it’s inflammatory bowel disease.

Takeda worked with the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA) and Marvel Custom Solutions to create its first-ever pharma company-sponsored superhero to shine a light on the many sufferers of IBD who hide their disease. The disease awareness campaign includes the graphic illustration series with IBD-suffering hero Samarium, as well as digital paid ads and social media shares.

Stephanie Brown, VP of Takeda’s specialty business unit in the U.S., said in a statement that “our hope is that patients will feel inspired to have the raw and real conversations they need to have with healthcare professionals, family, and friends, to increase awareness, understanding, and to strive for the best care for their IBD.”

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The first-in-the-series online comic, out now, will be made into actual comic books and distributed at some events, including several Comic-Con festivals that Takeda will attend, a Takeda spokeswoman told FiercePharmaMarketing. She said more stories are planned for the graphic illustration series, including global editions. And for every view of the online graphic at www.IBDUnmasked.com, Takeda will donate $1 to CCFA, up to $25,000.

Takeda markets IBD biologic Entyvio, although that brand is not mentioned in this disease awareness campaign. Entyvio, which did launch a branded ad campaign earlier this year, faces competition in a crowded IBD space where it's up against established Crohn's and ulcerative colitis brands such as AbbVie's Humira, Amgen's Enbrel, and Johnson & Johnson's Remicade and follow-up Simponi.

Takeda marketers were introduced to Marvel through a mutual agency partner. The ideas for the graphic were then generated in an all-day brainstorming session that included Takeda and CCFA representatives, along with patients who have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

The initial response has been “incredibly positive” from patients, the spokeswoman said, pointing out that “even when you work in a heavily regulated environment, you can still be creative and create something interesting and compelling enough for people to want to share it.”

- see Takeda's press release

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