CBS Unites Pharma Marketers in TV Ad

Campaign Raises Awareness for Healthcare-Spending Accounts

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Why wait for marketers to come to you with advertising? CBS sure didn't. Acting as its own de facto advertising agency, CBS had an idea for a commercial regarding the year-end use of flexible-spending accounts for over-the-counter medications. The network pitched it to Washington-based Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) and is now in the process of creating a spot to run during the last eight days of this month.
The spot will feature a medicine cabinet dressed in a bow, and a woman opens the cabinet to reveal 19 products from the 19 different pharma marketers.
The spot will feature a medicine cabinet dressed in a bow, and a woman opens the cabinet to reveal 19 products from the 19 different pharma marketers.

"It was one of those middle-of-the-night ideas and it was warmly received," said Mike Nowacki with a laugh. Mr. Nowacki is VP-news and late-night sales for CBS.

End-of-year need
CBS is a 52-year member of the CHPA -- which has no ad agency -- and it presented the group an idea for a spot addressing the end-of-year need for consumers to use or lose the corporate benefit known as flexible spending dollars. Flexible-spending plans, which were set up by the IRS in 2003, reimburse corporate employees for some nonprescription drugs. Representatives from the CHPA said not all consumers understand how their flexible-spending accounts work.

"We really wanted to get that message out about using your flex dollars on OTC products," said Linda Suydam, CHPA president.

Ms. Suydam brought the commercial proposal to the CHPA board of directors, which is partly comprised of executives from prominent healthcare and pharmaceutical companies. Within six days of CBS' pitch, she received the approval. The creative might have been the key factor: CBS' idea allows a plethora of companies to be involved. The storyboard for the spot features a medicine cabinet dressed in a bow, and a woman opens the cabinet to reveal 19 products from the 19 different pharma marketers. Brands such as Claritin, Nyquil and Cepacol throat lozenges are shown.

CBS is in the process of shooting the spot through Eye Too Productions, a division of CBS News.

'Big obstacle to leap'
"One of the things we know from calling on new business prospects is the cost of producing the commercial itself," Mr. Nowacki said. "It's a big obstacle to leap. In advance of that, we did some investigating in the company as to whether we could provide that resource for them."

Even after production costs, CBS is looking at about $1 million in revenue from the CHPA campaign. In addition to the group ad, many of the pharma companies committed to running individual ads in the same pod. The package consists of 26 units running in CBS news programs, including the "Evening News with Katie Couric," "The Early Show" and "Face the Nation."
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