Pfizer solicits fresh creative for Viagra

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For five years, Pfizer's Viagra was the pharmaceutical equivalent of an unopposed political candidate, but in the space of five months, with the debut of two competitors, Viagra's 100% share of the marketplace has fallen to 85%, according to IMS Health.

So while Pfizer executives insist they aren't putting the $89 million account into review, the drugmaker appears to be launching a pre-emptive strike against rivals Levitra and Cialis by reaching out to roster shops for new creative ideas and replacing its current TV campaign with a new national spot.

Last week it was revealed by Advertising Age that Pfizer would invite roster agencies to pitch ideas for Viagra, arguably the best-known brand name in prescription medication and DTC advertising. Omnicom Group's Cline Davis & Mann, New York, handles the account and will take part in the process.

Pfizer's other roster shops include Omnicom's Merkley & Partners; WPP Group's Berlin Cameron Red Cell; Publicis Groupe's Kaplan Thaler Group; Havas' Arnold Worldwide; and Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson.

Last week, Pfizer began running a national TV that actually ran last year in Canada and was made by Taxi Advertising, Toronto and Montreal. It shows a variety of men running out of their homes yelling "I'm a champion!" with Queen's "We Are The Champions" in the background.

Pfizer said the ad, and the solicitation of creative ideas, is not in response to the Levitra campaign from Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline, or the Eli Lilly and Icos Corp. campaign for Cialis. Levitra made its debut in August and has captured a 14.4% share of the market, according to IMS Health. It's too early to determine market-share numbers for Cialis, which received FDA approval in November and launched its debut campaign in late January.

"We have an established brand," Pfizer spokeswoman Michal Fishman said. "Men know that it is a proven therapy compared to our competitors."

Pfizer's current print executions have touted Viagra's experience and efficacy in the category, with data saying Viagra has helped nearly 16 million men worldwide; that nine pills are dispensed every second; and that the drug has gone through some 130 clinical tests.

"Well, I would say there are some compelling advantages for both [new] brands," said an executive with one of the rivals, who asked not to be identified. "And I would also say that since both Levitra and Cialis received big exposure [by advertising] on the Super Bowl, that Viagra needed to get back in the game again."

Ms. Fishman said there is no timetable for the presentations of ideas and insisted again that it was not a review.

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