Jublia, from Valeant for toenail fungus, has made heavy use of the celebrity route in its advertising. First, they used tennis legend John McEnroe and now are adding talk show host Mario Lopez to the mix. Most of us remember Mario as Slater on Saved by the Bell.The Jublia ads are light in tone and I equate the ads to what an OTC drug might do. After all, toenail fungus is not cancer, so the ads can use a lighter approach.
I have mixed feelings about humor in health ads. While toenail fungus is not prostate cancer (Valeant also makes prostate cancer drug Provenge), it is not funny to those who have it. The thickening and yellowing of a toenail can be embarrassing and physically uncomfortable. When I was marketing antacids in the 1980’s, many ads tried humor. What patients said to us was there is nothing funny about acid reflux and burning the esophagus. So we proceeded with caution on our ads regarding making light of a painful condition.
My reservations about humor aside, the Jublia campaign is very good. The ads are memorable and get their message across clearly. They are in your face ads type ads, shouting their benefit out through the little animated toe icon and the celebrity presenter. Sometimes ads bordering on obnoxious are highly effective. Mr. Whipple from the please don’t squeeze the Charmins ads was a much hated character but the ad worked.
Jublia needs to compete against the many anti-fungal OTC’s. Therefore as an Rx they need to get consumers comfortable switching to an Rx alternative. That means dealing with consumer concerns about safety. While Jublia has few side effects as it is a topical versus a pill, consumers need to feel it is both effective and safe before they request it. The lighter tone does aid in making consumers feel the product is not something to fear.
I assume the celebrity campaign will continue and more will be added beyond McEnroe and Lopez. The drug has sales of about $450 million so there is plenty of profit to be invested in advertising. Jublia marketers have done an excellent job navigating that difficult area of being an Rx in an OTC dominated world of toenail fungus.