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Exact Sciences: Harry Connick Jr., Wife to Lead New Cancer Campaign

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

[Updated 3/19/18 5:06 p.m. See below.] Two months after Exact Sciences said it planned to introduce a new celebrity spokesperson to plug its stool-based screening test for colorectal cancer, the company has pulled back the curtain on who it will be.

The recording artist and entertainer Harry Connick Jr. will attempt to raise awareness about colorectal cancer screening options as part of a new education campaign sponsored by Madison, WI-based Exact (NASDAQ: EXAS), the company said Monday.

Connick’s wife Jill, a breast cancer survivor, will also be part of Exact’s new campaign, which it’s calling The New 50. The goal is to encourage more people age 50 and older to talk with their doctors about getting screened for colorectal cancer, Exact said.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a group that provides recommendations around testing patients for various diseases, including different forms of cancer, recommends screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 50.

Connick, who turned 50 last fall, was recently screened with Cologuard, Exact’s stool-based DNA test for colorectal cancer, said JP Fielder, senior director of corporate communications. [This paragraph has been updated with information from JP Fielder of Exact Sciences.]

Cologuard went on sale in 2014 after receiving FDA approval and Medicare coverage. Exact said last month that more than 1 million patients have been screened with the test, which detects changes in DNA that are likely indicators of cancer or pre-cancer.

Several colorectal cancer advocacy groups are joining Exact’s The New 50 initiative, the company said. They include the Colorectal Cancer Alliance, Fight Colorectal Cancer, and the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation.

Exact has previously sought to promote Cologuard by bringing on Jerry Kelly, a professional golfer and native of Madison, WI, as a paid spokesperson. The company also sponsors a PGA Tour Champions golf tournament called the Cologuard Classic. The competition, part of a series of tournaments for players ages 50 and above, took place in Tucson, AZ, earlier this year.

Exact has also sponsored national television advertising campaigns for Cologuard, and has used digital platforms such as Google, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB), and YouTube to reach consumers.

Puneet Souda, an analyst at Leerink Research, wrote in a note Monday that investors on Wall Street had “elevated” expectations for Exact’s spokesperson announcement. Connick is not as widely known among the patients Exact targets with its ads and advocacy campaigns as some of the other celebrities the company was rumored to be courting, according to the note.

“We believe [Wall] Street was looking for a celebrity with significantly broader appeal and one that could elevate the Cologuard brand via marketing efforts,” Souda wrote. The Connicks “are unlikely to drive the same level of marketing impact” compared to Will Smith, George Clooney, or Hugh Jackman, Souda Wrote. All three actors are between ages 49 and 56.