The $30 million, national TV and print campaign for Paxil targets professionals ages 18 to 34 who look healthy, but often are overcome by debilitating fear of social or professional situations. To reach that demographic, Smith-Kline is running the ads on shows such as "Ally McBeal" and in publications such as Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated.
The campaign from McCann-Erickson Consumer Health, New York, seeks to give sufferers a definition for their condition. Both TV and print executions ask three questions to establish a benchmark for evaluating whether to see a doctor: does the anxiety cause one to avoid social interaction; does the nervousness feel like a panic attack; does it significantly affect one's work or social life.
The ads also try to convey a message that the problem is common. The TV spot asks: "Over 10 million suffer. Do you?"
YOUNG PEOPLE IN ADS
The TV spot features shots of young professional types at work or in social settings such as playing football with friends. The tagline is "Your life is waiting!"
"This isn't just about creating a competitive preference for a brand," said Marc Worman, president of McCann-Erickson Consumer Health. "It's about defining a condition as well as to promote the Paxil name."
Scott Sproull, Paxil product manager, said there's a potentially large market waiting, considering that only 5% of social anxiety disorder sufferers currently seek treatment.
"There is still a stigma associated with mental illness," said Mr. Sproull. "People who suffer from anxiety conditions and depression have some comfort knowing there is someone else out there."
With the Paxil effort, Smith-Kline joins several other drug marketers that have used a similar direct-to-consumer approach.
'YOU'RE NOT ALONE'
"Just the idea that now there's a treatment that can help you -- that you're not alone -- is very appealing to consumers," said Julie Kline, associate product manager at consulting firm Scott-Levin, which measures the effectiveness of DTC ads.
Physicians, however, often use other antidepressants to treat anxiety disorders. Last year, Paxil was the No. 3 antidepressant with 26.3% of the $5.6 billion in category sales behind Eli Lilly & Co.'s Prozac with 35% and Pfizer's Zoloft with 28.7%, according to Scott-Levin.
Though the Paxil ad claims more than 10 million Americans suffer from the condition, figures are still uncertain, in part due to the difficulty in diagnosing it. Figures from the National Institute of Mental Health show about 5.3 million Americans ages 18 to 54 have the disorder.
MORE FEMALE SUFFERERS
NIMH also says social anxiety occurs in twice as many women as men, although a higher percentage of men seek help.
Unlike the TV spot, Paxil's print ad features no women. The dominant image is of an anguished man in a tie pressed against a wall.
"Men tend to be the last to see a doctor or receive medication for anything," said Nan Dillon, exec VP-chief creative officer, McCann-Erickson Consumer Health. "This tends to be the exception because social anxiety disorder can