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Viagra appoints creative agency in China as male virility drug competition heats up

Leo Burnett Shanghai has been named as the first creative agency-of-record for the erectile dysfunction pill Viagra in China.

Due to strict marketing policies for prescription medicines in China, the pharmaceutical company owner of Viagra, Pfizer, has never held a creative campaign for the infamous little blue pill.

However, since its patent on Viagra expired in 2013, Pfizer has increasingly found itself competing with local and cheaper versions of the male virility drug.

Leo Burnett Shanghai vice president Yama Chen explained: “Despite the marketing restrictions in place, a lot of Viagra competitors have engaged in aggressive communications campaigns, using outdoor and television, which has given them stronger awareness among China’s youth.

“Although, this has been stopped, our client noticed the effect on sales and market share and is now looking to increase awareness of the Viagra brand among younger patients.”

According to Chinese law, direct-to-consumer advertising is not allowed for prescription drugs, while advertisements of prescription drugs must be placed in designated medical and pharmaceutical journals targeting health care professionals.

Although Leo Burnett will be unable to carry out any major creative work for Viagra, Chen said agency would promote the brand through education and public awareness campaigns.

“Because of the marketing by Viagra’s competitors, there is a lot of confusion and misinformation in the market: for example, efforts to encourage the frequency of usage and exaggerations of the efficacy of these drugs.

“Pfizer wants to give patients the right information and encourage them to use the right channels, such as online drug stores and pharmacies, through which to buy Viagra.”

Leo Burnett has already carried out a survey of the market in China and found that users generally refer to Viagra as ‘little blue pills’ and ‘wei ge’, meaning ‘strong big brother’.

The agency also discovered that Viagra users are aged from 18 to 65, a much wider range than initially believed, and that more women have become vocal about their sexual expectations.

Pedro Pan, the senior marketing manager of Pfizer’s men’s health division, said: “We found that many people in China were not enjoying satisfactory sex, because they didn’t realise they had a problem that could be solved. As a leading brand in the erectile dysfunction category, we wanted to help people understand that Viagra is a scientifically proven and reasonable way to bring improvements to their lives.”

The Publicis Groupe-owned agency has already worked with the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer,Viagra’s owner, for the past 10 years on its over-the-counter brands Centrum, Caltrate, and Imedeen.

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