After ceasing television advertising for a week, ads for Belviq from Arena Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:ARNA) have resumed in a big way. This is important because weight loss season, the first 6 months of the year, is fast approaching, and advertising gives hopeful dieters exposure to a potential solution. In what has become a very competitive environment, television advertising could build brand awareness and even get consumers to request a particular product by name.
Prior to this week, the peak number of ads was 683 back in the Fall. At that point I had highlighted the big advertising push that had become apparent and applauded the move by Arena's marketing partner Eisai. Unfortunately, the advertising push in the Fall was short lived and ads went down to much lower levels through October, November, and December. Ultimately ads saw a total drop off for a one week period between December 15th and December 22nd. Ads ceased on December 15th and did not resume until December 22nd. The one week hiatus in advertising was a bit concerning to me, but seeing the ads now carrying a big push gives me a bit of confidence. That being said, I still think the ad campaign has shortcomings. Eisai has been running the ad for over nine months. I have personally seen it on television only twice. In contrast, I have seen an ad for Jublia (with a freakish cartoon set of toes wearing boxing gear) dozens of times. The ad numbers may seem impressive, but it seems that many are on networks or time slots that lack a major audience.
This past week the Belviq ad ran 729 times, with 122 of those airings coming in Prime Time. It was the biggest television advertising push to date, and represents a good recovery from the previous week that had only 5 ads aired. The data for advertising comes from iSpot.tv, a service that offers a wealth of data on television advertising. Normally I report advertising at the beginning of each month. This month I am posting the advertising data a bit earlier than normal because we have seen two records set in the last two weeks. One record for the fewest ads, and one record for the most.
Now is as good a time as any to assess the advertising for the fourth quarter as well. From the beginning of the quarter, through December 28th, the television ad has aired 4,638 times. This is the biggest adverting quarter that the Belviq ad has had to date. In Q3 of 2014 the ad aired 3,918 times. Up until this most recent 2 week period, the advertising in the quarter was relegated to between 200 and 400 airings per week.
Television advertising gives Belviq a very distinct advantage over the anti-obesity drugs offered from Vivus (NASDAQ:VVUS) or Orexigen (NASDAQ:OREX). Vivus has had Qsymia on the market for over two years, but as yet has not taken the path of advertising on television. Orexigen's Contrave was launched in October, and likely will not conduct television advertising for at least 6 months, which would mean that it will be March or April before we may see a television campaign. This dynamic can be a very substantial advantage for Arena and Belviq. The 2015 weight loss season starts next week, and Belviq advertising is already in full stride. Whether or not Arena's marketing partner Eisai takes full advantage of this situation is yet to be seen. While I like the big push, I would love to see better ad placement. This also may be the perfect time to roll out a new ad.
In the short term, a lack of ads between the 15th of December and the 21st of December will impact script numbers reported this Friday. In the longer term, if advertising keeps a steady pressure applied, the adverting will begin to bear fruit in the early part of weight loss season. The next month is critical. With Contrave priced so aggressively, it may take more than the existence of advertising to drive sales. If Eisai can combine advertising with a more competitive price, the opportunity exists to "set the market" for the 2015 weight loss season. Stay Tuned!
Disclosure: The author is long ARNA.
The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.