Levitra makes gains on Viagra

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Less than four months after its U.S. launch, erectile-dysfunction drug Levitra is leaving a tangible impression on consumers and making gains on market leader Viagra.

According to IMS Health, Levitra has taken a 14.4% share of the $1.74 billion market since being approved by the Food and Drug Administration on Aug. 19.

Last month, Levitra's first branding spot from WPP Group's Quantum Group, Parsippany, N.J., hit No. 1 on Intermedia Advertising Group's ad tracking poll. According to IAG VP Steven Walsh, it represented the first time that a pharmaceutical company's direct-to-consumer spot ranked in the top three. IAG's data measure general recall, brand recall, message understanding and likability.

The spot features a man finding a football in his garage and repeatedly trying to throw it through a tire hanging from a tree. He fails, until it is implied he takes Levitra. He then has no problem accomplishing the feat.

While awareness of the Bayer/GlaxoSmithKline co-marketed product seems to have translated into prescriptions, Pfizer's Viagra still has a whopping sales lead on Levitra and Eli Lilly's Cialis, which hit the market two weeks ago. Viagra, handled by Omnicom Group's Cline Davis and Mann, New York, spends $87 million annually on advertising. Cialis and Grey Global Group's Healthy Grey Village, New York, are set to spend $100 million (AA, Nov. 3) on a campaign that began last week.

undaunted

But officials from Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline, who will spend $75 million on Levitra, remain undaunted by Viagra's five-year head start.

"Competition is a good thing. It breeds innovation," said Sharon Wible, senior product manager for GSK. "We just felt that we did our research on this and we found that of the 32.5 million men who suffer from erectile dysfunction, 81% were undiagnosed. ...We felt there was certainly a piece of the market for us."

Ms. Wible said GSK and Bayer set internal records by having a campaign up and running six days after FDA approval. The two-pronged attacked including the branding work and a separate sponsorship with the National Football League that produced a promo called "Tackling Men's Health," with former NFL coach and player Mike Ditka as the spokesman.

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