AstraZeneca to Launch Drug Online

AstraZeneca next week will roll out a key new drug with an online campaign, offering a major endorsement of using online to build pharmaceutical brand awareness.

The British drug company will introduce its new cholesterol-fighting drug, Crestor, in an online campaign designed by aQuantive’s Avenue A/NYC. The “Crestor awareness week” campaign features homepage takeovers on and, as well as large ad units on

In one rich media execution to run on, a yellow ball bounces around the screen for a few seconds before forming part of the Crestor logo. The ad then retreats into a rectangle unit showing a middle-aged couple rowing and text reading, “Introducing a new prescription medicine.” Viewers are invited to click through to learn more.

The push marks a new milestone for AstraZeneca, which has been a leading adopter of online advertising in the pharmaceutical space. The company was one of the first to try New York Times Digital’s surround sessions, in which a visitor receives ads from a single advertiser during an entire stay at the site. In addition, AstraZeneca signed on to do a cross-media case study for the Interactive Advertising Bureau to study the optimal amount of online spending in integrated media plans.

Crestor, which got approval from the Food and Drug Administration earlier in the month, is the most important drug launch in some time for AstraZeneca. It will compete with offerings from larger rivals Pfizer and Merck in the huge worldwide market for cholesterol drugs, estimated to be worth $21.7 billion annually, according to IMS Health. Pfizer’s Lipitor racked up $8.6 billion in sales last year, making it the top-selling drug, and Merck’s Zocor had $6.2 billion in sales, according to IMS Health. Crestor could eventually sell $5 billion annually, according to some industry estimates. AstraZeneca plans to spend as much as $600 million on marketing Crestor, mostly through its 6,000-strong sales force.

The campaign continues a long association between Avenue A and AstraZeneca. The agency has done online advertising for the company since 2001, including consumer campaigns for AstraZeneca’s top-selling drug, acid reflux fighter Nexium. Sister aQuantive agency i-Frontier, which was acquired last December, has also worked with AstraZeneca on Nexium campaigns focused on health care professionals. AQuantive tabbed i-Frontier’s strong ties to the pharmaceutical industry as a major reason for buying it.

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