How drugmakers are reaching unvaccinated Americans through TV, social media

Moderna, Pfizer, Regeneron and Eli Lilly are using television, radio and social media ads to promote COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, although they don't mention their products by name, The Wall Street Journal reported May 16.

The ads don't use product names, due mainly to marketing restrictions stipulated under the FDA's emergency use authorizations. They instead refer to broader product classes such as "mRNA vaccines" and "monoclonal antibodies."

Below are four examples of drugmakers promoting COVID-19 products through digital marketing:

  1. Moderna told the Journal its COVID-19 marketing is focused mainly on digital ads. Two recent examples include the online video discussions it launched on a news website focused on historically Black colleges and a skit about mRNA vaccines it sponsored on "Jimmy Kimmel LIve!"

    Moderna's marketing spending was $10 million more in the first quarter of 2021 than it was in the first quarter of 2020, according to the drugmaker's first quarter financial statement.

  2. Pfizer has released digital ads featuring people spending time around those they had missed during the pandemic and using the tagline "Why will you get vaccinated?" One such commercial that featured an in-person baby announcement was seen 8.3 million times and had $78,000 in national television ad spend, according to ad-measurement firm

  3. Regeneron has been running ads promoting monoclonal antibodies on television, radio and social media. The first one aired just before ABC's April 25 Academy Awards broadcast. The campaign, scheduled to run through June, is expected to reach about 40 percent of the U.S. population and is targeting 19 markets including Atlanta, Baltimore and Detroit, a company spokesperson told the Journal.

    Regeneron has spent about $545,000 on national television COVID-19 ads, and its commercials have been viewed 142.5 million times, according to

  4. Eli Lilly has also run ads on social media and search engines promoting monoclonal antibodies. The drugmaker's ads are targeted at areas with high COVID-19 infection rates.

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