Denise Strauss had a plan when Levitra, the erectile dysfunction drug from Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline, was approved by the Food & Drug Administration.
First, she wanted to position the drug as far away from Pfizer's market leader, Viagra, as she could. After all, as the first ED drug on the market, Viagra had the world to itself for more than five years until Levitra was given FDA approval in October of 2003 and Cialis, from Eli Lilly & Co. and Icos Corp., received approval in October.
"Our research showed that only 15% of the potential market was being treated by Viagra. So there was room in the marketplace," says Ms. Strauss, 37, Bayer's director of marketing for men's health.
To convey that message, Ms. Strauss used a campaign that not only trumpeted the new kid on the block, but also convinced men to see their doctors. And she did it by convincing the National Football League to change its policy about accepting pharmaceutical advertising. Ms. Strauss went to the NFL with a secondary campaign for Levitra that featured former NFL player and coach-and noted tough guy-Mike Ditka as the spokesman for "Tackling Men's Health," a health education program. "When we decided to have the eight categories [of male health issues including ED] in the league for pharmaceutical marketing, she was very convincing and very instrumental in establishing the groundwork for how we were going to do this," says John Collins, now president of the NFL's Cleveland Browns.