Bad “Buzz” Beats Super Bowl EyeBalls When It Comes to Drug Ads | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

Drug ads often seem ubiquitous during regular TV programming. However, one time they definitely are not is during the advertising event of the year: the Super Bowl.


This year's Super Bowl advertiser roster is a familiar lineup, packed with the usual snack, beer, car, and technology brands, and an occasional public service announcement. Brands in those categories have far fewer regulatory guidelines for ads and more freedom to produce silly, moving, or eye-catching spots, whereas pharma brands are usually much more cautious.


"I don't think it's a lack of people or agencies presenting ideas of how to get into the Super Bowl [resulting in a lack of drug ads]," says Kevin McHale, MD and executive creative director at FCB Health's Neon. "There are a lot of clever pharmaceutical advertisements that have great consumer appeal in recent years in the U.S., so we're seeing a great evolution of healthcare advertising."


While big pharma does spend an astounding amount on advertising each year, with one media tracking firm estimating it exceeded $6 billion collectively in 2016, many marketers don't see a Super Bowl ad as the best use of their money.


While a surprise appearance is a possibility, no healthcare companies have bought spots, according to lists of Super Bowl XLII ads from Advertising Age, AdWeek, and However, pharma companies have tried their luck during the big game. Jublia, a prescription toenail fungus drug, bought a spot in two recent Super Bowls, using NFL legends and animated football imagery to tie its brand to the game.


AstraZeneca's 2015 opioid-induced constipation disease awareness ad tried to bring out the clever side of a health issue, but promoted backlash for making light of a serious problem.


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