Benjamin Li
May 5, 2014

Hammer time: This is not your father's Viagra ad

HONG KONG - An OOH campaign by Leo Burnett for Pfizer's erectile-dysfunction drug Viagra takes a more direct approach and addresses a younger audience than the brand's more familiar advertising featuring older men and couples.

Hammer time: This is not your father's Viagra ad

The ‘Man up’ campaign shows a 30-something male in a smart suit armed with, well, a gigantic hammer. Leo Burnett won the account following a pitch last year.

A spokesperson for Pfizer's Urology, Respiratory & Women's Health division said the "bold creative execution" is necessary in part because Viagra falls under the restrictions of the Undesirable Medical Advertisements Ordinance of the Hong Kong Government. "We could not mention the name of the disease in the ads or the function of the medicine, and the regulation is getting tighter and tighter," the spokesperson said. "For example for our particular product segment in erectile dysfunction, we are not allowed to show the male’s sexual part.”

The brand also wants to differentiate itself from its competitors and the category clichés of middle-aged or elderly men, the spokesperson said. The 'Man up' platform and masculine model are intended to "arouse attention" and bring out the "lifestyle" side of the product, with the hammer communicating the message in a "subtle" [sic] way, said the spokesperson, who went so far as to add that the presence of the tool conveys that "a man should know how to use his tool”.

In addition, the brand faces increased competition in Hong Kong, not only from major rivals including Eli Lilly's Cialis and GSK's Levitra but also new entrants. “Our marketing challenge is that even though Viagra is a very well-known brand, our patent period for the chemical formula for Sildenafil ended in the second half of 2011 in Hong Kong," the Pfizer spokesperson explained. "Hence there are many less or unknown brands that have developed generic Sildenafil pills, which are as much as 50 per cent cheaper.”

Asked whether the brand had concerns that people might see the ad as promoting 'recreational' use of the drug, which after all is legally available only by doctor's prescription, the Pfizer spokesperson said the company does not encourage recreational use. "The objective of this ad is to build brand awareness and remind our patients we are available for their choice," she said. "We need to defend ourselves from brand and generics competition." 

Edward Ha, group brand director of Leo Burnett Hong Kong, said that Chinese men often see erectile dysfunction as a taboo topic, hence the positioning as a means of enhancing performance.

The condition is not limited to older men and arises from physical as well as psychological factors, according to the Pfizer spokesperson, who added that men in their 30s and 40s also experience some level of anxiety over performance. For these reasons the brand wanted to take a new perspective in Hong Kong, focusing not on shame but on taking control and being "tough and brave", the spokesperson said.

The media agency is Mindshare. The campaign consists of OOH in the MTR, as well as print ads in newspapers and magazines, including men-focused and business magazines like Esquire, Automobile and Capital. “We are not using TV ads as not only they are expensive, but the TV advertisement regulations are even stricter for our product segment,” the Pfizer spokesperson said.

Ha said the agency wanted to avoid using any "vulgar or bad-taste execution to sensationalise" the issue. The print and OOH campaign is stage one, and more consumer engagement for brand building will follow later this year, he said.

 

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