Thursday night, while on the elliptical and watching "NBC Nightly News," one spot amid the wall-to-wall commercials for drugs caught my attention.
It looks like after 10 years since the first erectile dysfunction pill came on the market--Pfizer's (PFE) Viagra celebrated a decade since winning FDA approval last week--the makers of Levitra are trying a new marketing tack.
As far as I can remember, the impotence drug ads have always had a subtle or, perhaps, not-so-subtle focus on sex. For example, one of Eli Lilly's recent commercials for Cialis has a couple standing by the kitchen sink when the faucet suddenly shoots a spray of water toward the ceiling.
Pfizer now has a bunch of middle-aged guys enthusiastically singing, "Viva Viagra" to the tune of "Viva Las Vegas." If Elvis really were alive, I think he'd have put a stop to it by now. And Priscilla is too busy on "Dancing with the Stars" or getting work done.
Speaking of the king, Viagra is still the king of ED drugs. Cialis is a solid number two. Levitra is a distant third. And its relatively small sales and profits get split three ways between GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), Bayer (BAY), and Schering-Plough (SGP). Although total sales never reached the astronomical heights that analysts had predicted they would, the impotence drugs are still a multi-billion dollar segment.
Anyway, urologists have long preached that ED could be a symptom of much more serious health problems. But now the companies behind Levitra are delivering that message in a unique attempt to goose sales. One of the actors says, "I know I have high cholesterol, but I didn't know it may have led to my erectile dysfunction." The next guy says, "Having diabetes changed my life, but I didn't know it might lead to ED." Then the spokesmodel sums it up with, "If you're a guy with high cholesterol or diabetes, Levitra is proven to help treat your ED."
I'm not sure the campaign will work, but it's an example of drug companies opting for a less frivolous, more serious, medically-driven strategy to sell what has been classified as a so-called lifestyle drug.