Recent weeks have brought a spate of news stories and public attention to the pharmaceutical manufacturer Mylan over its increase in the price of the EpiPen, its lifesaving epinephrine-delivery device that opens the airways of allergy sufferers experiencing anaphylactic shock.
We were curious about paid search marketing efforts around EpiPen and noted an interesting phenomenon leading up to and including the month of May, when the price of the standard EpiPen two-pack hit its maximum of $609.
In examining U.S. Google desktop text ad activity on 250 top allergy-related keywords, we found the site EpiPen.com increased its monthly paid search ad spend in April and May 2016 by an average of more than 1,800% over their average monthly spend in January through March this year. By the numbers, AdGooroo estimates EpiPen.com spent an average of $311,000 per month in April and May compared to an average of $16,000 per month in January through March. For a year-over-year comparison, EpiPen.com spent an average of $35,000 per month on paid search advertising from January through May 2015, according to AdGooroo estimates.
By July 2016, when scrutiny of the device’s price increase was stoked by news stories and social media, the site’s paid search advertising spend dropped to an estimated $73,000.
Ad Messages Evolve
We also looked at EpiPen.com’s paid search ads in 2016 and noticed an evolution in their messaging.
In April and May the manufacturer’s paid search ads focused on educating the public on symptoms of severe allergic reactions, insect bites and anaphylaxis:
Notably, the ads were unbranded, meaning that the manufacturer’s name and website URL were not included in the ad, presumably to encourage consumers to view the ads as offering educational rather than promotional information. (This is a common practice by drug advertisers that is permitted by Google in its rules for pharmaceutical ads.)
By July, when public scrutiny began to rise, the manufacturer began to focus on branded “Official Website” ads that encouraged allergy suffers to talk to their doctor and sign up for a “$0 Co-Pay Card”:
When last we checked on September 1, the manufacturer’s ads had become more explicit in promoting cost savings, adding “Savings Card Offer” to the headline:
In late August Mylan announced it will launch a cheaper generic version of the EpiPen, and it will be interesting to see if/how the generic version is promoted alongside the brand version.