Aleve's 'Painful Truth' Takes On Opioids

Aleve takes aim at a notorious competitor -- opioids -- in “The Painful Truth,” a recently launched campaign that encourages consumers to explore the possibility of non-opioid pain relief options with their doctors.

While the Bayer pain relief brand’s name is included in campaign materials, Jeff Jarrett, chief marketing officer, Bayer Consumer Health, North America, considers “The Painful Truth” a public service announcement. “Our objective is to shed light on this issue of public interest,” he tells Pharma & Health Insider.

A key campaign element is a three-minute video in which several real pain sufferers engage in a telehealth consultation with Matt Robinson, introduced as a “pain expert” who, by video’s end, is revealed to also be a former opioid addict.



Jarrett, who will retire at the end of May, said this unexpected reveal “is intended to disarm patients and viewers and force them to consider the potential impact addiction could have on their lives, ultimately humanizing the issue and inspiring viewers to get curious about their care.”

The video ends with onscreen text reading,  “There are non-addictive options for your pain,” followed by “The CDC recommends maximizing non-opioid therapies as appropriate before using opioids for acute pain.” “Brought to you by Aleve.”

Robinson, the video’s expert, is also co-host of “Till the Wheels Fall Off,” a podcast that covers such topics as addiction and recovery, and is a campaign co-partner with Aleve.

Another co-partner is Mothers Against Prescription Drug Abuse (MAPD), a nonprofit co-founded by former Congresswoman (and the late musician Sonny’s wife) Mary Bono. “We’ve worked with them to ensure that we’re accurately and authentically representing the gravity of the opioid crisis,” says Jarrett.

Aleve has also teamed up with the National Consumer League’s “Script Your Future” initiative, which aims to get people to take medications as directed.

"Till the Wheels Fall Off" and MAPD are helping to drive people to “The Painful Truth’s” educational website by posting the hero video on their own platforms.

Bayer’s promotional campaign, Jarrett says, also includes using “The Painful Truth” as “a tentpole activity on paid social that is a major part of our Aleve marketing plan in 2024. The content was created specifically to be fit-for-paid social channels.”

Created through a MullenLowe team spanning three countries, “The Painful Truth” came together through Bayer’s sem-annual “Creative Unleashed” process, in which all of Bayer’s creative and media agencies are asked to provide responses to projects that different brands are interested in pursuing.

In this case, says Jarrett, MullenLowe successfully responded “to a two-sentence brief, addressing serious healthcare and business concerns that our Aleve brand is attempting to remediate.”

Jarrett says  “The Painful Truth’s” success will be measured not only by traditional key performance indicators for public relations and social media, but also site traffic and referrals by healthcare personnel.

"Success to us looks like consumers inquiring about non-addictive pain relief alternatives with their providers,” he states.

The stakes are pretty high. “Although the U.S. makes up only 4.4% of the world’s population, it consumes over 80% of the world’s opioids,” says Jarrett. “With this staggering figure in mind, our mission to empower everyday health can offer options for self-care and finding better ways to serve communities.

"Of course, there is a time and place for opioids, but we knew it was important to encourage consumers to know that they have options and to explore alternative means of pain management.”

(Note: With Jarrett’s retirement at the end of May, Samantha Avivi has been named CMO of Bayer Consumer Health, North America. She was most recently CMO at Advance Auto Parts and has also worked at Procter & Gamble, Kimberly Clark, Walmart, BBDO and Y&R during her 25+-year career.)


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