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AbbVie’s Ubrelvy Adds Serena

In my June 24th column I discussed the Ubrelvy campaign. They had a pool of everyday situations at home or work at all times of the day. The “Anytime Anywhere” medicine is the positioning. Coinciding with the start of the US Open tennis tournament, Ubrelvy has engaged Serena Williams to be a spokesperson.

Debuting a television ad with scenes of Serena on the tennis court and working out, Ubrelvy has stayed with the basic theme in the creative. They kept the largely black and white scheme with large headlines in blue. Serena becomes the narrator for the selling message which is the first 22 seconds of the 45-second spot. She comes back to close for the final 8 seconds.

What I like is that the use of Serena does not change the campaign. She is seamlessly inserted without altering the look and feel of the vignette campaign. Of course Serena is the star of this execution, but is shown like the others in past executions struggling to deal with migraines. The illness is what is highlighted not Serena’s tennis accomplishments. This understated use of celebrity is what makes the spot so good. Serena is just like everyone else who struggles with unpredictable migraines.

AbbVie also has a 7-minute interview with Serena on their website detailing her struggle with migraines and her experience with Ubrelvy. The interview is conducted by a physician who makes sure Serena’s comments are on label and are supported by clinical studies. Celebrities have been an issue for some drug companies when they made claims in interviews or PR events without providing fair balance. Here, the physician modifies any statement made by Serena to add fair balance.

The concern with celebrity use is how genuine they appear. Are they just promoting a product for a paycheck or do they have a credible story on why this drug helped them? Serena is used by a number of companies to promote products such snack bars and energy drinks. She also runs a fashion line which she promotes on shopping channels.

In this Ubrelvy ad, she does pass the credibility test. Clearly Serena has a high stress job, and can not afford to let migraines ruin her practice schedule or, worse, come up during a match. The interview on their site adds to the credibility as this is a problem she has had for more than a decade. Since most viewers will only see the television ad, Serena still achieves the sincerity threshold in the 45 seconds.

There are several campaigns that have integrated a celebrity into their standard campaign theme. Cosentyx with Cyndi Lauper and Enbrel with Phil Mickelson have been successful using celebrities as part of but not dominating the campaign. Mixing real patients with a celebrity who also has the disease helps add to the believability of the core message. Serena, Cyndi, and Phil are just like the rest of us and have the same problems. Well, not like the rest of us most of the time, but they can have migraines, psoriasis, or psoriatic arthritis. In a way, it is reassuring that these stars are not exempt from nagging conditions no matter how much they have in money or prestige.

Ubrelvy has taken the opportunity to enlist Serena Williams in their campaign at a time tennis gets center stage. Is this a one shot celebrity use? We shall see but clearly it can work with others if AbbVie chooses to look for more celebrities who are sufferers.
Bob Ehrlich
DTC Perspectives, Inc.
Bob Ehrlich
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at DTC Perspectives
Bob Ehrlich has over 20 years marketing experience in pharmaceutical and consumer products. Bob is the CEO of DTC Perspectives, Inc., a DTC services company founded in 2000. DTC Perspectives, Inc. developed the DTC National Conference, the largest DTC conference in the industry. DTC Perspectives, Inc. also publishes DTC Perspectives, a quarterly journal dedicated to DTC issues and practices. In addition DTC Perspectives, Inc. does DTC consulting for established and emerging companies, and provides DTC marketing plans for pharmaceutical companies.
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