Novartis Plugs Lamisil With Direct-Mail Video Campaign

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Drug maker Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. is preparing to launch its third incarnation of direct-response campaign incorporating a video mailer promoting the drug Lamisil, an oral prescription medication that cures nail fungus.

The campaign is timed to coincide with the advent of warm weather, when people are more likely to go barefoot and thus be concerned about the appearance of their toenails. Novartis, Basel, Switzerland, uses direct response ads on TV and in consumer magazines -- such as Better Homes and Gardens, Ladies Home Journal and TV Guide -- directing consumers who want healthy nails to call a toll-free number. Those who call are sent a video and a packet of printed materials, which includes a pamphlet describing onychomycosis -- a disease that causes finger and toe nails to become discolored and brittle -- and a description of the oral medication Lamisil.

The printed materials also include a brief letter containing a list of doctors in the consumers' areas that have volunteered their names as referrals for the program. A separate sheet offers guidelines for broaching the topic with physicians and suggests that patients mention Lamisil when speaking with their doctors.

The eight-minute video primarily is used as an educational tool, according to Sharron Ames, a regional account director at Technicolor, Camarillo, CA, which manufactured and distributed the video.

"First, you have to identify that you have the problem," she said. "A lot of people don't know what's causing their condition, and they might be too embarrassed to talk about it."

The video, called "Barefoot Without Embarrassment," features testimonials from several patients who have used the product and depicts people frolicking on the beach with their perfect toes exposed. It describes the symptoms of nail fungus and uses computer animation to demonstrate how it affects nails and how Lamisil works to treat it. The video also includes endorsements from doctors and pharmacists.

Chris Campbell, vice president of sales for pharmaceuticals at the Shawnee Mission, KS, office of Harte Hanks, which handles fulfillment for the Lamisil project, said video has become a popular direct-mail medium for some pharmaceutical companies, particularly those seeking to reach aging baby boomers.

"It's especially good for the older audience," he said. "They don't have to read, they can just pop it in the VCR and push play, and they all know how to do that. More and more of our clients are looking at it for older consumers, for products used to treat diabetes and high blood pressure."

In the past two years, the Lamisil campaign has produced a database of 2.2 million consumers. During the peak of the campaign, which runs from late March through late August, the company handled as many as 65,000 calls per week requesting the video.

Novartis has done some second mailings offering free foot screenings, according to Robin Kloster, an associate account executive at Harte Hanks, although she said the database primarily is used for market analysis. The mailings also have included $10 coupons that help track prescription fulfillment.

The video itself is made from a lightweight plastic to reduce shipping costs, and the printed materials are placed in an envelope that is shrink-wrapped around the outside of the cassette, which is in a cardboard sleeve. The total package weighs about 8-9 ounces.

Patient privacy has not been a problem, Kloster said. To ensure confidentiality, the exterior of the mostly white package is labeled "Uncover the News on Nails," but does not have any reference to the disease.

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