Lilly Airs Depression-Treatment Infomercial

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Eli Lilly & Co., Indianapolis, launched an infomercial campaign last month to build brand awareness for its anti-depressant drug, Prozac, and to educate people about clinical depression. The infomercial, which runs on Lifetime, E!, F/X and other cable networks, will run through July 25.

The infomercial format was chosen over DRTV spot advertising, because the half hour allows sufficient time for the target audience to get complex information on clinical depression. The show stresses the importance of the patient's need to be "informed advocates for their own well-being" and is part of a program Lilly adopted to educate the public on depression. It was produced by Creative Street, Indianapolis, which also serves as the agency of record.

"Thirty-second or 60-second spots are the norm but they alone could not tell the whole story," said Greg Kueterman, spokesman for Lilly. "It takes a long time to explain the lives of 10 people who suffer from depression and how they are recovering."

The info-mercial opens with a shot of a blues band playing in front of a subdued audience. The narrator says that everyone can relate to the genre of blues music, but there is a difference between feeling blue and being depressed. The next 20 minutes of the program discusses the symptoms and effects of clinical depression on the lives of the 10 patients coping with the disease. They discuss the stigma attached to depression and how they were treated for the disease.

"Public education about depression, including a significant campaign by national advocacy groups to reduce stigma, has helped raise awareness around the seriousness of depression and appropriate treatments," said Freda Lewis-Hall, MD, a Lilly psychiatrist and director of the Lilly Center for Women's Health, who is featured in the infomercial. "Despite these efforts, however, millions of people in this country continue to suffer in silence because of the stigma that goes along with depression. Leaders in this area estimate that half of the 18 million adult sufferers in the United States receive no treatment at all."

The final eight minutes of the program contain testimonials about Prozac and a lengthy fair-balance statement that explains the drug's side effects and contraindications. The call to action is to ask a doctor about Prozac or to call a toll-free number for more information.

The infomercial airs during late-night broadcast hours and on weekend afternoons.

"The air times for the infomercial will reach the audience we want," Kueterman said. "People can't sleep when they are depressed, and when they can't sleep, many watch television."

Eli Lilly does not yet have figures showing what kind of response the infomercial is generating.

"It is too early to tell about the kinds of response we are getting," Kueterman said. "This is a lengthy process because we do encourage people to go to their doctor and get properly diagnosed so it will be a while before we have any kind of results."

Two years ago, Lilly launched a national print campaign for Prozac that appeared in consumer magazines. Last year, Lilly launched a 60-second depression-awareness campaign on national cable television stations.

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