Capturing a familiar moment for Crohn’s disease sufferers

Who: Janssen (the pharmaceutical arm of J&J) and OutPost379 for creative and media, with Westside Studio for production. Doctor Brothers directed.

What: The first consumer-facing advertising campaign in Canada for Janssen’s Stelara brand, which is used to treat Crohn’s disease.

When & Where: The campaign launched this week running on TV (including the Super Bowl), online video and outdoor.

Why: Stelara has been approved in Canada for treatment of Crohn’s since 2016, but Janssen was looking to increase awareness among those suffering from the disease. Previously, most marketing had been directed towards physicians.

“The brief was how to we capture the discomfort of the disease —within the regulatory boundaries—and lean into a little bit about what these people are feeling in their everyday [lives] while connecting the brand as a solution to this discomfort,” said Amy Bastianon, director of strategic planning at the Peterborough, Ont. agency.

About Crohn’s: Crohn’s is gastrointestinal inflammation that can cause acute abdominal pain, severe diarrhea; bleeding; weight loss and diminished appetite. Those suffering often have to make urgent trips to the bathroom—which makes everyday activities like work and going out problematic.

About those regulatory boundaries: The challenge with consumer pharmaceutical marketing in Canada is just how little marketers and their agencies can say about the product. “Anything that implies what this thing does or what it is for is really off the table,” said Bastianon. “So you rely on these subtle cues that only someone who has it would understand what it feels like.”

How: The ads portray the first seconds after someone has to—without any warning—drop everything and dash to the nearest bathroom. The hope is people suffering from Crohn’s will recognize that moment, and either talk to their doctor about it or go online to get more information about it.

“We know the dilemma these people face,” said Rick Kemp, executive creative director of Outpost379. “They can be in social situations where it becomes very awkward that they have to suddenly leave and use the bathroom. So we were really trying to capture that moment in a way that wasn’t offensive or made light of them, but add drama to it in a way that they could relate to.”

David Brown