MERCK MOVES BEYOND GAY MEDIA FOR HIV DRUG: CRIXIVAN ADVERTISING EXEMPLIFIES MOVE TO MORE HOPEFUL IMAGERY

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A new direct-to-consumer print ad for Merck & Co.'s Crixivan portrays highly active HIV-positive individuals, illustrating the hope the latest HIV drugs have brought to the market.

The effort is the first one for a prescription HIV treatment that goes beyond gay media. The ads appearing this month from Prime Access, New York, are running in such mainstream publications as Details, Men's Fitness, Spin and Vibe.

CREATING A NEW 'CAMP'

"The campaign was designed to reach those diagnosed but not being treated," said Michael Seegev, corporate communications manager for Merck. "Previous ads were mostly in two camps-either the misplaced journal [length] ad with lots of molecule diagrams or 'Faces of AIDS' with people on the beach looking somewhere."

Other current ads in the category exemplify this new trend. Roche Laboratories' Invirase shows active people in its current advertising, and last year Glaxo Wellcome's estimated $5 million multimedia HIV awareness campaign from FCB HealthCare, New York, pictured volleyball players.

Those ads did not appear in mainstream magazines.

Sean Strub, publisher of Poz, said the Merck ad is "clearly in the third generation of advertising. People are going on with their lives, falling in love and taking vacations." He said Merck's unusual media plan is "gutsy and very sophisticated."

"No one has really gone to African-American publications before," said Howard Buford, president of Prime Access, referring to the Vibe buy. "People have pigeonholed this as a gay, white disease."

When protease inhibitors, such as Invirase, hit the market last year, an unprecedented number of options became available to consumers and a new category sprouted.

CHANGING COMMUNICATIONS

"There are 10 approved anti-HIV drugs in three classes," said Mr. Seegev. "The communication needs are very different from years ago."

Crixivan is also the first HIV drug to implement a consumer-friendly "brief summary" page, containing the FDA-required contraindications statements.

Merck is one of a few drug marketers creating simpler language for the technical summaries; it has also simplified ad language for its Proscar, Fosamax and Zocor

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