Merkley Brands Elidel With Super-Character

NEW YORK The animated character in Merkley + Partners Healthworks’ first work for Novartis’ Elidel skin medication is a bit Buzz Lightyear with a touch of Clark Kent, according to one of the creatives who conceived him.

The goal was to create a “superhero and college professor duality,” said creative director and copywriter Jonathan Isaacs.

The character, dubbed “Elidel Guy,” is featured in a 60-second spot and four print ads. The campaign broke late last month.

Elidel Guy wears a blue bodysuit with short yellow wings on his shoulders and a yellow “E” on his chest. (The color scheme came from the brand’s logo.) He has black hair, an authoritative voice and square black glasses a la Clark Kent.

In the spot, the character enters the screen from the left as a woman makes a bed and starts to scratch her left arm, first with her right hand and then with a brush. Elidel Guy then swoops over and grabs the brush, saying, “Maybe I can help. My name is Elidel. I’m steroid free.” He tosses her a tube of the product.

Later the woman appears relieved of her scratching, as she walks in a park with the character. They play checkers, eat ice cream, even read magazines on a park bench while a voiceover highlights the drug’s potential side effects. His magazine is titled Eczema, the skin condition that Elidel relieves.

Directed by Craig Tanimoto, the ad was tricky to shoot because the character was not added to the screen until post-production, said Isaacs. It helped, however, that staffers from Los Angeles animation house Rhythm & Hues were on the set, offering advice on continuity and framing, according to Isaacs. Also, someone held up a Styrofoam ball on a pencil to give the actress something to interact with.

Matthew Johnstone was the art director and co-creative director on the spot and Chris Decker was the producer. Andy Hirsch and Randy Saitta were the New York shop’s co-executive creative directors on the campaign.

The concept of using an animated character to personify the brand was first presented to the client during a review for the Elidel business that Omnicom’s Merkley won in November. The shop bested two other finalists—Interpublic Group’s Deutsch in New York and the previous incumbent, WPP Group’s The Quantum Group in Parsippany, N.J.—to claim the estimated $50 million account.