Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The New Celebrex TV Ad: What Did You Learn?

Pfizer's new Celebrex TV ad, which aired last night for the first time during ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, was unique in several respects. But what did viewers learn from this two and a half minute commercial? I invite you to take a little test at the end of this post.

First, however, let's list the ways that this commercial was different. Pfizer obviously thinks this commercial is special -- it has placed the entire video clip on the Celebrex Web site home page.

Length and the Communication of Risk
This was more of an infomercial than a typical commercial. In fact, it was the ONLY commercial interruption during the half-hour of the news program. Charles Gibson made a big deal of this right at the beginning of the show and promised that will be a new feature every Monday on ABC World News. Whether or not Celebrex remains the sole sponsor on Monday is yet to be seen. But as soon as Charles said that, I knew I was watching the right news program.

Many critics of FDA regulations regarding DTC claim that 60 seconds is too short a period to balance all the required risk information with benefit information (see, for example, "DTC without the Risk"). It's refreshing to see an approach that solves this problem by devoting more time to communicating risk. The Celebrex ad did a good job listing all the risks in 150 seconds. But the benefit statements were all geared to comparisons with other NSAIDs, especially prescription naproxen and ibuprofen, which leads to the second unique aspect of this ad.

Direct Comparison with Competitors
Very few drug ads offer comparisons with competitive products. Mostly, this is because to make such comparisons, claims must be backed up by studies and so few comparison studies have been done. In the NSAID arena, however, there are plenty of studies. The Celebrex commercial repeatedly cites studies in making its claim that Celebrex is at least no worse than other NSAIDs with respect to cardiovascular (CV) and other side effects.

We don't hear, however, any results from an on-going Pfizer-supported trial comparing Celebrex, naproxen, and ibuprofen in patients with both heart disease and arthritis, which would "answer once and for all questions about the relative cardiovascular risks of these agents" (see "Definitive study of anti-inflammatories in heart disease?"). Time will tell.

Creative "Pencil Test" Animation
The new Celebrex ad is also different in its creative execution. Instead of using actors, it uses a unique kind of 3-D animation. It resembles a black and white "pencil test" draft that animators often use before creating the full-color, full-body animation. We don't see any facial expressions on the animated characters in this commercial. The creative twist, however, is that the outlines are all strings of text, which the narrator reads.

So, What Did you Learn?
A lot of information was presented in this ad. At one point, when you thought the ad was over, the narrator says "Let's dive deeper!" An advertising maxim is to present 2 or 3 main messages at most because the audience can't absorb any more than that. How much did you take away from the ad? Did you absorb correctly all the claims made? Look at the ad again, and take the little test below. I will reveal the correct answers in a follow-up post. Thanks for your input!

Which claims were made in the New Celebrex TV Ad?
To select multiple entries hold the Ctrl key (or the Apple key)


  1. Hey John,

    Good observations and good questions. Personally, any ad that runs more than 2 minutes makes me antsy, but that aside, you raise a good point about the skimpy benefit info. There's not too much of that in the commercial for, perhaps, an obvious reason.


  2. Anonymous7:40 PM

    Nice insights on the ad. Another thing to be noted is the obvious omission of any mention of Celebrex being a COX-2, which as we know carries much baggage in todays post-Vioxx era! What are your thoughts on this?


  3. I the artist behind the commercial. I would like to do more commercials for the Pharma industry under my own production company. Different Ideas. I find the ad powerful and I feel it is well done.

    johnfoxart. -com

  4. Your insights into the commercial are well thought-out and informative. However, to actually watch this advertisement: it's like being on drugs. After it's over should I go through detox, or pop open the nearest child-proof cap and take a big swallow? Dude, this is one freaky pill of an ad.

    P.L. Frederick (SMALL & big)

  5. I'm trying to find out exactly what that small print in the Celebrex ad actually says. Does anybody know?


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