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Xiidra and Their Critter

Sometimes an Rx Drug is also competing with many OTC alternatives. In that case, their DTC ad frequently is more OTC-like than most typical DTC ads. Xiidra is a perfect example of the near OTC ad. It treats dry eye and is the only FDA approved treatment specifically indicated for the signs and symptoms of dry eye disease. Other approved drugs are indicated to increase tear production which I assume may also have the effect of reducing dry eye signs and symptoms. Restasis is the most well known of those.

Xiidra is now part of Novartis, after its deal to buy the brand from Takeda in June 2019. Takeda acquired Shire which owned Xiidra in January 2019 but quickly divested it. Novartis decided to create a new campaign for its newly acquired brand and thus a new creative approach was born.
Their new creative uses a little devilish critter to represent the symptoms of dry eye. He sits at a console where there are controls to cause ache, grit, itch, and burn levels. He is sinister but in a humorous way. Reminiscent of the “Digger” toe fungus character which represented the disease, the Xiidra controller is meant to be memorable without overpowering the core message. 

You would not ever use these characters for life saving or life altering drugs, such as cancer, as even a little humor would not be appropriate. In cases where the conditions are annoying but not life threatening however, the use of disease representative characters is fine. People with toe fungus and dry eye are not laughing about their conditions, but can still accept ads that are lighter in tone. 

The Shire launch campaign for Xiidra was very different from the latest Novartis execution. It was an animation of two balls representing the eyes on a track and a play on the double “i” letter in the name. A voice over announcer described the symptoms and Xiidra treatment. The branded campaign was launched after the much publicized Jennifer Aniston eye-love disease education campaign.

I assume Xiidra under new ownership decided that to compete with all the OTCs, they needed to get a more attention getting device and the critter was born. Their web site also features the critter on the landing page. I also like the use of the critter in print where so many DTC ads are similar with headshots of patients. The critter in the print ad is an attention grabbing visual enhancement. It looks like it is being used only for physician publications to date but I am sure it will appear in consumer publications soon.

Does the use of critter diminish the efficacy message or create negative reactions from potential users? That is unlikely given the nature of the disease being annoying but not life threatening. Patients have a sense of humor, too, and creating a memorable character helps Xiidra get attention in a category that is underdeveloped in the Rx arena.
Bob Ehrlich, Chairman
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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