Which Asthma Sufferer Are You? Tezspire Ads Inspire Viewer Identification


You’ve heard of breakout characters in TV shows, when members of an ensemble become fan favorites? This is a case of a breakout character in a TV ad.

Tezspire, indicated for treatment of severe asthma, sort of broke the mold in pharma advertising a year-and-a-half ago, when brand partners Amgen and AstraZeneca launched an animated commercial featuring diverse characters coping successfully with severe asthma -- from a spike-haired guy to an ice sculptor, and a mom splitting logs for her camping family.

The aim, Tezspire said, was to demonstrate that severe asthma sufferers “can be you, whoever you are.”

“Patients really look at who they identify with in terms of the characters,” Kristin Layton, Amgen’s consumer marketing director, tells Pharma & Health Insider.

Turns out the public identified most with that spike-haired guy, who showed himself to be a cat lover whose severe asthmatic symptoms were triggered by flowers.

Now, the spike-haired guy has been given a name -- no, not Spike, but Hawk -- and spun off into a sequel commercial. In this spot, from VMLY&R, we learn that Hawk is the singer in a rock trio (apparently named the Mere Cats), but when severe asthma symptoms strike, he turns into a non-spikey average Joe.

“There are times when it can be tough to be yourself when you have severe asthma,” says a voiceover. “But no matter what type of severe asthma you have, Tezspire can help you be you.”

Hank then becomes the spike-haired guy again, and by spot’s end, other characters from the first ad have also appeared.

And all of them now have names and backstories, as described in personal profiles on Tezspire’s website.

Hawk was chosen for the new commercial because “when we tested the different narratives with patients, we found his story was the most relevant and most relatable,” Caty Smith, AstraZeneca’s executive director of marketing for Tezspire, tells Pharma & Health Insider

There’s also a new character on the website: Hana, an asthma specialist, who’s designed largely to help introduce the concept of an asthma specialist to patients without one.

The new spot is running mostly on network and cable, with some streaming. Initiative handles Tezspire’s media buying.

The spot launched a couple of weeks ago, just ahead of what Layton and Smith say is the most critical season for severe asthma sufferers.

“Hawk, just like everybody suffering from severe asthma, goes through this time period where his asthma is triggered, where he can’t do what he wants to be doing, where he has to modify himself and his activities around his asthma,” Layton says, “but once he gets on a better management plan, he’s actually able to get back to being himself, doing those things that he loves to do.”

Indeed, Hawk may as well have been named Spike, since a spike in severe asthma symptoms occurs annually during the third week of September, Layton notes. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) has dubbed this Peak Asthma Week, which this year starts this Sept.18.

But the onset of symptoms actually starts earlier than Peak Asthma Week and lasts longer, Layton and Smith point out. Causes include weather changes, ragweed growth, viral illnesses and kids going back to school, where they’re exposed to respiratory illnesses.

“It’s a really important time for us to engage patients,” says Smith, “when they’re most aware and top-of-mind in terms of their severe asthma disease.”

“The pinnacle piece is the TV spot, but we’ve launched a 360-degree campaign, branded and unbranded, across multiple channels,” she adds.

The unbranded elements include an Associated Press content partnership, in which a physician talks with a patient, sharing “critical advice on planning ahead around this time of year,” and four influencers posting about “how they’re managing their disease this time of year” and directing followers to visit, which brings them to a Tezspire peak week landing page.

Imre is Tezspire’s social agency.

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