Women to Watch

Denise Strauss

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Denise Strauss is one of those rare college graduates who actually practice what they studied. Bayer's director of marketing for men's health went to Cornell University and majored in communications, with a minor in biology, then went on to Pace University to earn her MBA in marketing.

Communications, biology, marketing ... it all flows nicely together these days as Ms. Strauss heads the team promoting the erectile dysfunction drug Levitra, a joint effort between Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline.

Of course, marketing a blockbuster drug is nothing new to her. Ms. Strauss spent 10 years at the world's biggest pharmaceutical maker, Pfizer, helping to market the world's best-selling drug, Lipitor.

So how do you speak to a marketplace in which the competitor had a five-year head start and no other competition? By not speaking to the marketplace, actually.

"We didn't think this would be a fight for the people already using Viagra," says Ms. Strauss, 37. "Our research found that only 15% of the potential ED market was currently being treated. There was a huge opportunity there."

Ms. Strauss negotiated the deal with the National Football League that not only made Levitra a league sponsor, but helped convince the NFL to abandon its policy of not accepting pharma advertising. "I thought we did some compelling research that we were ready to show the NFL," Ms. Strauss says.

As an offshoot to the Levitra advertising, from WPP Group's Quantum Group, Parsippany, N.J., the "Tackling Men's Health" campaign was born using former NFL player and coach Mike Ditka.

Within three months, 17% of new prescriptions for ED were being written for Levitra. And despite the fact that "Tackling Men's Health" was the secondary campaign, Mr. Ditka quickly became the face of the drug.

"We didn't set out saying Coach Ditka is going to be the front man for Levitra," Ms. Strauss says, "but he delivered such a motivating message to show men that it's OK to step away from the tough guy image and ask for help."

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