First Year After Launch: Marketing Ibrance
Med Ad News asked Adrienne Morgan and Geetiksa Prasad, the account and copy leads for Ibrance at H4B Chelsea, about their agency’s work with Pfizer’s star breast cancer brand.
Med Ad News: What do you think the most innovative component of the Ibrance campaign has been, and why?
The most innovative component of the Ibrance campaign is surprisingly simple: the beam artwork. Not for the obvious reason of being an icon that communicates female empowerment and combination therapy, but for being a foundational and flexible design element we’ve been able to evolve over time. When the Ibrance + fulvestrant indication was approved in 2016, we leveraged the beams to create the cover of a journal ad that was exciting, new, and inviting. We reinvented the beams but maintained continuity with the campaign since this journal ad ran only a year after launch. Our latest campaign iteration has completely new copy and a new background, showcasing that the MBC landscape is changing, but first-in-class Ibrance is here to stay.
Separately, we created campaign to celebrate the 2-year anniversary of Ibrance’s launch. We knew competitors were coming and wanted to make sure that Ibrance was recognized as the pioneer of CDK4/6 inhibitors. The rich purple and bright green colors paid homage to the launch campaign without using the beams. Two years may not feel like a long time, but when you’re talking about helping thousands and thousands of women, it’s never too soon.
Med Ad News: As Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get hit.” What key adjustments were made to the Ibrance campaign post-launch, once all the data started pouring in? What would you say the biggest post-market surprises were, and how did you respond to them?
Ibrance essentially relaunched every year for the first two years after launch. More data meant more label updates, and we updated the campaign every time. The first iteration featured a new headline and a reinvented use of the beams. The second iteration featured another new and improved headline as well as a new background design for the campaign.
An interesting surprise soon after launch was learning that oncologists considered Ibrance to be chemotherapy. We heard it casually at market research and also in feedback from the sales force. Though we understood where that misunderstanding came from, we needed to rectify it quickly. Some immediate changes included simplifying our MOA story and incorporating messages that helped distinguish Ibrance from chemotherapy. We also went beyond promotion to arm the reps with smart ways to engage in compliant conversations that helped the oncologists appreciate just how unique Ibrance is.
Another surprise was the expanded approval Ibrance received when the label was updated a second time. We needed to announce this approval even though the bigger news was that we now had first-line Phase III data. Our solution was to incorporate the expanded approval messaging into our core story while keeping the overall focus on trial results.
Med Ad News: Talk about the relationship between the agency and Pfizer Oncology. What made it work so well? What challenges did you face? What lessons have you learned?
We’re fortunate to work with a group of marketers who appreciate the expertise an agency brings. Our clients see us as partners, which is critical to our success to date. Finding opportunities to collaborate – both within the walls of Pfizer and across different agencies – showcased our ability to be an outstanding partner. The kind of partner who’s there to celebrate the good times and make the most of the not-so-good times.
The learning curve for us when we first took over the business was very steep. The marketing team had already invested years into Ibrance and we were clearly the new kids on the block. We quickly learned how to provide creative suggestions and solutions even when history may have precluded creativity from being an option. We turned being the newbies into a strength and an opportunity to do more.
And finally, we have a respectful and friendly rapport with our clients. We can talk shop just as easily as we can talk about things outside of work, which adds an ease and comfort to our working relationship.
Med Ad News: What are a couple of key elements that all great launches, big or small, share?
For us a great launch is defined by three important elements: noticeable brand presence, excitement in the industry, and impact on the market. Whether you’re first to market or fifth to market, your brand has to stand out. A successful launch is one where the name, look, feel, and expression of a brand are strong and memorable enough to distinguish the brand.
Launching is all about creating a buzz. When healthcare professionals get truly excited about the possibilities of a therapy – the results can be amazing. Of course there are HCPs who are set in their ways or hesitant to try something new, but when you can leverage the curiosity and confidence of HCPs, you create an environment where a brand can succeed.
A successful launch fundamentally changes how the market approaches treatment. One clear shift we noticed with Ibrance was that, for the first time in over a decade, HCPs expected more for their patients with metastatic breast cancer. We knew KOLs were starting to describe MBC as a chronic condition, and that meant we could help other HCPs recognize that Ibrance was changing the game in MBC. HCPs were reconsidering their treatment approach. They were questioning if there really was more they could do for these patients. And in the end, they were revamping their overall treatment approach so their MBC patients could experience superior outcomes.
Med Ad News: How have you kept things fresh for key stakeholders beyond your target HCPs?
It’s important to keep the sales force excited about the brand, and sometimes people can lose sight of that. After a year of the traditional rep training materials, we shook things up with an internal initiative that featured a fresh new design and leveraged a cool and playful tone. We wanted to make sure reps were engaged throughout the process of learning, because Ibrance had new data and information coming out every few months. By having fun with the creative process, we infused fun into the rep training experience. And the sales force loved it.
Med Ad News: So what’s next for Ibrance?
Our next step is all about staying a step ahead of our competitors. Ibrance will soon be one of three CDK4/6 inhibitors available for HCPs. Based on its own merits, Ibrance is a blockbuster in MBC – but now we have to make sure it stands up to the impending competition.