But Eli Lilly & Co.'s Prozac is not a typical pill. Arguably one of the most discussed pharmaceuticals, sales of the blockbuster antidepressant grew 12% to $1.9 billion last year, according to IMS America.
By some counts, the pharmaceutical marketer arrived late to the direct-to-consumer Rx advertising party last July. Andrew Hotchkiss, group brand leader, says Lilly studied DTC for "many months" to decide whether or not to advertise and why.
The answer was that only a third of an estimated 17.6 million depressed Americans are being treated-leaving plenty of room for growth on a product that retains its patent until 2003.
"The real driver for the campaign is the treatment gap," says Mr. Hotchkiss, 35. "Also, there is a lot of stigma associated with depression. The time was right to talk directly to the consumer."
Lilly hired Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, to create a print campaign of simple comparative illustrations such as a storm cloud vs. a sun or a shattered vase pictured with a whole one.
While many DTC campaigns struggled with finding a relevant message and slick look, the $23 million effort was among few well-received by the ad industry.
"The challenge was, `How do you communicate to consumers what is really a complicated illness?' " says Mr. Hotchkiss.
Focus groups helped Lilly develop the concept.
"One patient drew clouds and a sun," says Mr. Hotchkiss. "The way others in the focus group responded, we knew that was it."