Health Canada reviewing CTV Zyban spots

A series of anti-smoking TV interstitials sponsored by the smoking-cessation drug Zyban has raised a red flag with Canada's Health Protection Branch. The pharmaceutical watchdog is reviewing the series of short filler spots, which were produced and aired by the CTV...

A series of anti-smoking TV interstitials sponsored by the smoking-cessation drug Zyban has raised a red flag with Canada’s Health Protection Branch.

The pharmaceutical watchdog is reviewing the series of short filler spots, which were produced and aired by the CTV television network, to determine whether they contravene federal restrictions on direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising.

Health Canada opened the investigation after receiving complaints regarding the spots, which feature ordinary people talking about their personal struggles to quit smoking, according to Ann Sztuke-Fournier, head of the advertising and promotion unit of Health Canada.

The 30-second ‘health vignettes’ began airing nationally last month and while the actors never make any specific reference to a smoking-cessation aid, a super at the end of the spot tells viewers the message is ‘brought to you’ by Zyban.

Although she refuses to divulge the source of the complaints,

Sztuke-Fournier says the fact remains that ‘you cannot advertise prescription medication directly to consumers in Canada.’

Glaxo Wellcome, the maker of Zyban, is currently crafting a response to Health Canada and says it is standing by the spots.

‘We feel that the sponsorship of these CTV medical vignettes is well within the Canadian regulations as it pertains to direct-to-consumer communications,’ says Carlo Mastrangelo, a Glaxo spokesman.

Health Canada bans direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs for the treatment, prevention or cure of a disease or condition that requires diagnosis and treatment by a physician.

Drug companies can market their products to doctors and other health professionals and can also advertise to consumers in order to encourage consumers to consult a physician about a particular ailment. The commercials, however, cannot urge people to ask their doctors about a specific drug.

According to Rita Fabian, CTV’s senior vice-president of sales and marketing, the Zyban spots constitute ‘editorial’ programming, and not advertising. She adds that they were reviewed very carefully to ensure they were in compliance with Health Canada regulations.

‘We were very careful to make sure we were not breaking any rules and regulations,’ she says. ‘As far as we know, we haven’t.’

Zyban is the leading smoking-cessation prescription drug on the market. The number of Zyban prescriptions filled almost quadrupled from 201,000 in 1998 to 747,000 last year, according to Pointe-Claire, Que.-based research firm IMS Health Canada. The drug was the 66th most-prescribed drug in 1999.

However, in the increasingly competitive stop-smoking category, Zyban has come under pressure from over-the-counter competitors that can more freely advertise their products. In April of last year, Ontario joined the rest of the country in switching nicotine replacement therapies, including patches and gum, from prescription to over-the-counter.

Since the change, competitors such as Nicorette gum and Nicoderm patches, produced by Montreal-based Hoechst Marion Roussel, as well as Nicotrol patches marketed by Johnson & Johnson Merck Consumer Pharmaceuticals, have all launched consumer-marketing campaigns.

While direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising is banned in Canada, it is big business in the U.S. and advertising is flowing freely across the border on U.S. airwaves, magazines and newspapers.

American drug companies spend between US$1.5 billion to US$1.8 billion annually on direct-to-consumer advertising, with 5-10% of that seeping north of the border, according to data from ACNielsen.

Zulu grows its team and makes a slate of promotions

A director of interactive production for Zulubot is among dozens of new faces and roles at the agency, in response to recent wins.
Zulu Alpha Kilo_New Zuligans

Toronto indie shop Zulu Alpha Kilo had made several new hires and promotions on the heels of new business and also organic growth from existing clients.

Zulu could not officially announce the account wins at this time.

However, it can report that Ece Inan, most recently at Toronto design and tech shop Array of Stars, has been named the agency’s new director of interactive production for Zulubot, the agency’s production arm. In the new role, Inan will lead AR, VR, voice and other digital innovation projects.

Also on the production side, James Graham, who has spent the last 17 years with Grip, has joined the agency as its studio director.

Zulu has also made numerous additions on the client services side, led by Michael Brathwaite, also from Grip, as account director.

It’s also announced a spate of new account supervisors, including Hayley Blackmore (from G Adventures), Risa Kastelic (from BT/A), Kara Oddi (also from BT/A), Emily Anzarouth (also from Grip), Chris Rosario (from FCB/Six) and Sarah Shiff (from Rethink).

In addition to the new hires (pictured above), the agency has also announced several promotions: Alyssa Guttman moves from account director to group account director, while Nina Bhayana, Michelle Fournier, Jenn Gaidola-Sobral and Erin McManus have all been promoted to account director, and Haley Holm to account supervisor. On the strategy team, strategists Carly Miller and Spencer MacEachern have both been promoted to strategy director, while Shaunagh Farrelly, who has been with Zulu for two years in a client service role, moves into a new role as a digital strategist.

In December, the shop also announced that Stephanie Yung would be returning to the agency after a stint in New York as its head of design. Recent wins the agency has been able to announce including work as AOR for the Ottawa Senators, as well as a new arrangement with existing client Consonant Skincare, setting up an in-house team to support growth after taking an equity stake in the company.

Zulu president Mike Sutton says it’s wonderful, in a new year, to welcome new faces and energy to the team and says the agency is fortunate to have had so many people across the agency step up to support its clients.

“Simply put, they were rock stars, and the promotions are very well deserved,” Sutton says.