Impotence rivals duke it out in big Super Bowl showdown

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An old adage when attending a sporting event: You can't tell the players without a scorecard.

The same can be said for male-impotence drugs.

In a move that could potentially confuse viewers, all three erectile-dysfunction brands are jockeying for attention with ads on the Feb. 1 Super Bowl, executives close to the situation said.

GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer's Levitra, a National Football League corporate sponsor, kicked off by buying a 30-second spot on the Super Bowl, to be broadcast by Viacom's CBS. The spot was created by Quantum Group, Parsippany, N.J., a division of WPP Group's CommonHealth unit.

Eli Lilly and Icos Corp.'s Cialis, too, bought into the Bowl, although an Eli Lilly spokeswoman declined to confirm the buy. Cialis' $100 million campaign broke Jan. 18 on the NFL's two conference championship games, beginning with a 15-second spot from Grey Global Group's Healthy Grey Village, New York.

Not to be outdone, Pfizer then took a 30-second spot for Viagra from longtime Omnicom Group agency Cline Davis & Mann, New York, executives close to the situation said. A Pfizer spokeswoman declined to comment. Viagra had exclusive domain in the category since its inception in 1998, but its market share has been whittled by the August 2003 Food and Drug Administration approval of Levitra and the November 2003 approval of Cialis.

differentiation

Each ED medication touts a point of differentiation. Pfizer has been trumpeting Viagra's track record of success. GSK and Bayer have subtly used the fact that Levitra works in as little as 16 minutes. And Cialis can last as long as 36 hours.

Ironically, the triple ED threat comes as CBS last week rejected an ad from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that used a risque theme that claimed eating meat causes impotence. The spot features a pair of scantily clad women who try to seduce a pizza delivery man, but discover that he can't deliver.

PETA's message is that eating meat can cause impotence by clogging the arteries to vital organs. CBS rejected the ad on the grounds that it would offend viewers and that the network doesn't accept advocacy ads.

Levitra was the first to buy a spot on the Super Bowl. It had been rumored for weeks that Cialis was considering a buy, and when it finally opted in, Viagra wasn't far behind.

Quipped another sports marketing expert: "Call it a classic case of penis envy."

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