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Viagra Rival Boosts Profile With Racy Ads

September 22, 2003|From Associated Press

NEW YORK — A new market entrant, Levitra, has captured half the new prescriptions written for impotency since its launch this month, thanks in part to a marketing blitz with a more racy take on sexual performance.

Analysts said Levitra's early success doesn't necessarily portend a major threat to Viagra's market dominance.

But it signals a shift in some of the marketing of both drugs as being capable of improving people's lifestyle, and not just correcting a sobering medical condition.

"The ads have much more of a consumer approach," said Winton Gibbons, an analyst for William Blair & Co. "The drugs are being treated like other consumer products in ads."

Pfizer Inc., which makes Viagra, and GlaxoSmithKline and Bayer Corp., which are co-marketing Levitra, insist the ads are designed to encourage men with erectile dysfunction to see a doctor, and not to promote recreational use.

Experts say about 30 million men over age 40 have erectile dysfunction.

But the ads can tell a different story. The commercial for Levitra features a sexy model trying to throw a football through a tire. Initially, he fails but then he succeeds, and is joined by a very attractive woman. The voice over says, "Sometimes you need a little help staying in the game. When it gets in the zone, it's good."

Gibbons labeled the ad "racy." Hemant Shah, an independent analyst in Warren, N.J., called it "aggressive."

Bayer spokeswoman Lara Crissey said the text was designed to appeal to men, and tie into Levitra's sponsorship of the National Football League.

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