Character: Nasonex Bee
Company: Created by Schering Plough, bought by Merck in 2009
Let's face it--actor Antonio Banderas can make anything sound sexy. The swashbuckling Zorro actor, who also voiced the irreverent Puss in Boots in the Shrek movie series, proved that as the voice of the Nasonex bee for allergy relief. (For the record, Merck responded to our query about Banderas' voiceover by neither confirming nor denying that it is him "due to contractual obligations." Banderas himself, however, has confirmed it in several interviews.)
Merck said that the animated bee was "designed to communicate information about seasonal nasal allergy symptoms and treatments. Our research found that audiences responded positively to the male voice of the bee."
The Nasonex bee first appeared on TV in 2004 flying over fields of sunny pollen-laced fields in what was reported by Advertising Age as a $30 billion launch. The bee, created by hitmaker ad agency BBDO, quickly became a well-known ad figure. A Nasonex bee ad was the most remembered ad of 2007 in Nielsen studies, according to a Time article.
During its 9-year run, however, the bee also stirred up controversy. Duke University researcher Ruth Day used the bee as a key point in her research to show that consumers have difficulty remembering drug side effects called out in TV commercials. It was a 2005 ad in which she noted the bee's wings flapped more during the listing of side effects voiceover, resulting in confused viewers. Schering Plough pulled that ad and replaced it with three others, one with no wings, one with black wings and one with no bee, according to Time.
The Nasonex bee last appeared on air in 2013, around the time the nasal spray lost patent exclusivity. Nasonex has been a blockbuster for Merck, recording sales of $1.22 billion in 2010--its first full year in the Merck ($MRK) portfolio--and hitting over $1 billion annually since, still clearing that goal in 2014 at $1.1 billion. -- Beth Snyder Bulik
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