Cialis plots $100 million marketing blitz

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Within days of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly Co. and biotech partner Icos Corp. receiving an approval letter from the Food and Drug Administration for their the erectile-dysfunction drug Cialis, the two will launch a $100 million ad blitz.

"We think there's going to be a lot of noise," said Matt Beebe, Lilly's U.S. team leader for Cialis.

The ad campaign-from Healthy Grey Village, a unit of Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York-is Lilly's best attempt to play catch-up to GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer's Levitra, which hit the market in August, and Pfizer's powerhouse brand Viagra, which has a five-year head start on both. Lilly has already increased the $50 million budget it had set aside for the launch. To compete, Cialis needs an explosion, and it is planning one.

prime-time effort

TV ads will appear on key prime-time shows on the major networks and selected sporting events, with the hope that FDA approval (expected before the end of the year) comes sooner rather than later to take advantage of the November sweeps.

The Cialis campaign will play off its main point of differentiation. It remains effective for up to 36 hours, where Viagra and Levitra last about four hours, though Levitra can start to work as quickly as 16 minutes. In Europe, where Cialis has been available for several months, the drug has been dubbed "Le Weekender" for its long-lasting effects. However, like its competitors, Cialis works only when a man is sexually aroused.

Thus Healthy Grey Village's tagline for the campaign plays up the romantic angle: "When a tender moment turns into the right moment, you'll be ready."

"Grey has been terrific and a key partner in developing our strategy," said Paula Garrett, VP-marketing for Eli Lilly. "You always take your competition into consideration, and the advertising and marketing plan for Cialis was based on what patient needs are. In this category, that happens to be that they're looking for a more normal sex life and relief from the pressure to perform [under time constraints]."

Lilly is also said to be looking at a national sports sponsorship for Cialis, much as its competitors have done. Viagra has a sponsorship with Nascar driver Mark Martin, as well as Major League Baseball player Rafael Palmeiro. Levitra signed a three-year, $18 million sponsorship with the National Football League earlier this year.

Sales forces for Viagra and Levitra are out wining and dining health-care professionals as the two-fold battle for new prescriptions in the erectile-dysfunction category will soon have a third contender. Pfizer is currently running ads for Viagra that tout the drug's history ("Join the Millions") while Levitra is playing off its football sponsorship ("Get in the Zone").

Pfizer spent $87 million on Viagra last year and $50.7 million through August of this year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Omnicom Group's Cline Davis & Mann, New York, handles. GSK and Bayer are laying out an estimated $50 million to $75 million for Levitra, handled by WPP Group's Quantum Group, Parsippany, N.J.

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