Most people in the U.S. are already aware -- perhaps painfully -- of erectile dysfunction, or ED, thanks to billions of dollars in pharmaceutical advertising. People know less about Peyronie's disease, or PD, a curvature of the penis during arousal. Those days may soon be over.
Endo Pharmaceuticals has joined with the non-profit Men's Health Network and enlisted ESPN sportscaster and physician Jerry Punch for an unbranded "Ask About the Curve" campaign aimed at getting what they say are up to one in 10 men with the problem to ask doctors about it. The campaign will include PR and social media, plus TV and radio public service announcements from Ogilvy Public Relations.
While not mentioned in the campaign, Endo does, of course, have a drug to treat PD -- Xiaflex. The condition is considered rare in the U.S., according to its AskAbouttheCurve.com site. But that's because diagnosis rates are low, largely because men are too uncomfortable to see a urologist or other health specialist about the condition. It's not obvious to doctors if patients don't bring it up.
PD is most common among men 40-70, though it's been reported in men as young as 30. Causes are unclear, though it comes from a buildup of scar tissue that may have to do with genetics or injury, possibly during sex, according to Endo.
"There was significant untapped potential to activate men as far as talking about the disease," said Blaine Davis, describing things when he became senior VP-general manager of Endo's specialty pharmaceuticals business about a year ago. "The whole notion of asking about the curve is recognizing that it's a legitimate medical condition. Some men may be embarrassed to talk about it or not even recognize that it's a disease or the relative prevalence of it."
Endo prefers patient education to a more direct-sales approach generally, and that seemed particularly called for with PD given "lack of awareness, and emotional relationship problems that may stem from the disease state, and even embarrassment to talk about it," Mr. Davis said. An unbranded campaign also gives Endo far more leeway to use social media, given the extensive disclosures required for direct-to-consumer ad messages for drugs.
Rather than go the "hot woman talking about sex" route taken by BBDO for Viagra, Endo has opted for more straightforward informational PSAs with Mr. Punch and website creative that shows "for the men who have PD, it's something that is ever-present and always on their minds," said an Ogilvy spokeswoman. "So much so that they start to see a curve in everyday items, like a ketchup or beer bottle, or their dinner fork."
"We at Men's Health Network handle a lot of below-the-belt issues for men," said Ana Fadich, VP of the group. "We find it's difficult sometimes for men to talk about these issues, so our goal is to educate men and their loved ones to talk about Peyronie's disease, kind of taking away the stigma and the idea that going to a doctor or having something not physically right is making you less of a man."
The group has also backed efforts around ED, prostate, cardiovascular, mental health and parenting issues, she said, often with backing from pharmaceutical companies.