Julie Andrews plays Evista starring role

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Eli Lilly & Co. is turning to stage and screen star Julie Andrews to raise awareness of its Evista osteoporosis drug.

The marketer will use Ms. Andrews -- best known for her roles in "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music" -- in an unbranded, direct-to-consumer campaign for the 2-year-old drug.

The campaign will include TV spots to be shot this week in New York's Times Square theater district.


Ms. Andrews joins the parade of celebrities making appearances in DTC campaigns that began with Joan Lunden for Schering-Plough's Claritin in 1998. More recently, National Football League coach Dan Reeves pitched Merck & Co.'s cholesterol-lowering drug Zocor; and model Lauren Hutton was featured in an unbranded campaign for American Home Products Corp.'s Premarin and Prempro, which compete with Evista.

By using an unbranded effort seeking to raise awareness of osteoporosis treatments, Lilly runs the risk of driving up use of competing drugs. Evista has only about half the sales of competitor Fosamax from Merck.


A Lilly spokeswoman declined to discuss the thinking behind the campaign, saying only: "We're interested in working with people who can elevate the awareness of osteoporosis."

The direct-response campaign from Publicis Dialog, New York, is expected to break in mid-May during National Osteoporosis Prevention Month. Spending could not be determined. Lilly spent $39 million supporting Evista in print after it was launched in 1998, then halted spending last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

At 64, Ms. Andrews, whose mother suffered from osteoporosis, fits Lilly's target for Evista. The bone disease that affects an estimated 22 million American women poses a significant threat to post-menopausal women in their 50s and upward.

Besides Evista and Fosamax, other drugs commonly used to ward off or treat the disease include Novartis Corp.'s Miacalcin and estrogen-replacement therapies such as AHP's Premarin and Prempro.

Fosamax posted $672 million in sales last year, compared to $286 million for Evista and $239 for Miacalcin, according to IMS Health.

Besides the DTC effort, Ms. Andrews will participate in a Lilly-funded public service/public relations campaign to raise osteoporosis awareness starting next month. She will make some public appearances, as well as appear in psas. Former Texas Gov. Ann Richards will also make public appearances as part of the effort.

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