With the antidepressant market crowded due to Eli Lilly & Co.'s Prozac and Pfizer's Zoloft, along with the recent surge by Celexa from Forest Pharmaceuticals, SmithKline sought to boost sales of the 6-year-old Paxil by persuading those suffering, but undiagnosed, with social anxiety disorder to seek help.
"Every marketer's dream is to find an unidentified or unknown market and develop it. That's what we were able to do with social anxiety disorder," says Barry Brand, the Paxil product director.
Mr. Brand, 36, and his team, launched a physician-targeted campaign in May soon after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration made Paxil the only approved product to treat social anxiety disorder. The move helped distinguish Paxil from other drugs in the SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) category.
In September, SmithKline followed up with the estimated $30 million TV and print DTC initiative themed "Your life is waiting" from McCann-Erickson Consumer Health, New York. The effort targeted young professionals in the 18-to-34-year-old range.
Sales of Paxil, the No. 3 SSRI behind Prozac and Zoloft, increased last year to $1.5 billion, up 16% from the year before, according to consultancy IMS Health. Prozac and Zoloft saw lesser increases.
Paxil's ad campaign featured attractive men and women, while the media plan included such hip outlets as the show "Ally McBeal" and Rolling Stone. The TV ad was the first 60-second branded spot ever for a central nervous system drug.
Lilly had previously done a 30-minute infomercial for Prozac, as well as unbranded 60-second commercials.