We hoped, tentatively, at the start of 2021 that this year would mark the endgame for COVID: New vaccines and drugs were set to help us lower the risk of death and disease severity, and we expected to move from a pandemic state to an endemic one.
For sales reps and marketers, the hope was that the disruption COVID wrought would start to end and some sort of return to normal could begin in earnest. What we had instead were variants: alpha, delta and then, just in time for Christmas, omicron, which nixed that idea.
No surprises, then, that looking back over the past year of pharma marketing coverage COVID, vaccines and job cuts dominated, but there was also room for more “normal” stories.
The biggest story of the year for Fierce Pharma Marketing, and one of the most read stories we’ve ever had, was the inside scoop from the Broad Institute on how Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID vaccine brand name, Comirnaty, came to be.
Strangely enough, this name never reached the heights of Pfizer’s other major blockbusters like Lipitor and Viagra, and it was, in fact, Pfizer’s own brand that saw the most visibility.
Our second most read story is, once again, Pfizer-based, and again, it’s about branding, but not about vaccines: Pfizer chose to redo its logo, basing the design on two-tone blue double helix spiral, replacing the now outdated staid blue oval pill background.
Switching gears, our third most popular story of 2021 comes from a TV ad that begins “Welcome to my vagina,” definitely the winner of the boldest opening to any pharma promo this year (or perhaps any year).
The ad was the latest Phexxi birth control commercial, which opens with that line spoken by award-winning “Schitt’s Creek” actor Annie Murphy. Evofem, which makes the drug, said: “We think of the brand as genuine and authentic and sassy and edgy, but also empowering. We thought about a lot of celebrities, we talked to a lot of celebrities, but to be honest, Annie Murphy is a unicorn.”
Our fourth focuses on the diabetes market fight between Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly, the two giants of the space, and how Lilly’s new dual action diabetes med could pressure the $3.4 billion in sales from Novo’s Ozempic.
Then we move on to a topic always closely watched: Job cuts. This year, it was Amgen’s culling of 500 sales reps that took the fifth spot, as the COVID pandemic made pharma shift gears into a more digital world.
The sixth most read article echoes the top spot, as once again it was about vaccine branding as Moderna nabbed “Spikevax” as the name for its mRNA shot in Europe.
Number seven was about pharma and TikTok, a slow but growing social media necessity for parts of the industry, with famous TikTok users tapping their clout in an effort to promote vaccination benefits and boosting pharma’s reputation in the process.
The eighth most read story was about the FDA’s decision to rethink its swift cancer approvals for a number of big-name oncology brands after it questioned whether a whole host of checkpoint inhibitor meds, from the likes of Bristol Myers Squibb, Merck & Co. and Roche, should have some of their indications pulled.
In the penultimate spot was our coverage of an awareness campaign sponsored by cancer drugmakers AbbVie and Ipsen. The ad tapped Jen Landon, a former soap opera actor who now appears in the Paramount Network series “Yellowstone” and who lost her father Michael Landon to pancreatic cancer, to invite pancreatic cancer patients and their relatives to find out more about testing.
Rounding out the top 10 list is a story that centers on the woes of Biogen and its controversial Alzheimer’s disease drug Aduhelm. Doctors across the country have refused to use the medicine, which has questionable efficacy and safety risks, but the Neurology Center in Washington, D.C., went a step further, banning Biogen employees from entering their seven office locations.
And we finish on a note from me, Ben Adams, your new editor here at Fierce Pharma Marketing, coming in after six years at Fierce Biotech.
Though much of my focus was on R&D, my former jobs at Pharma Marketing Europe, PharmaTimes, Pharmafocus and the British Medical Journal had me focus on drug marketing, with an eye to the very different world of European healthcare campaigns, a topic I will explore in 2022.
It’s a privilege to take up this post for a publication that has such a high standing in the pharma world and at such a pivotal time for the marketing community.
Thank you for reading us in 2021, and I look forward to writing for you next year.