Why Pharma Sucks.

Regular readers of my blog know the special place I hold in my heart for the pharma side of advertising. Any category has good and bad work in it, but the limits placed on pharma by the government affect the look and feel like nothing else. All pharmaseutra brainstorms usually end up in an orgy of medaphors: "Can't say power, but we can say strength. No, can't say strength, but we can say long-lasting. NO? Damn. Okay, what about mild. Can we say mild? No, (Brand X) owns that. SHIT." And so on.

The fair balance info that needs to accompany ads is worse than anything you'll find in financial or automotive work, but more importantly, the government watches over how things are worded and what you can claim. This is so you are not duped in :30 seconds into making a life or death choice. Ironically, what FB doesn't protect consumers from is the real stuff that matters: Product recalls or misleading ads by brands like Yaz.

No, today it really sucks because this Viagra spot in Canada from Taxi and The Perlorian Brothers shows how good pharma work could be if we would just lose all the legal requirements.

They must have had to jump a few hurdles though because it's borderline, seeing how only the U.S. and New Zealand allow direct to consumer (DTC) advertising with the aforementioned legalities. (Canada is in the middle of that fight and has been for some time.)

The ad walks a line because while it's branded with a quick logo at the end, it can do that since it's not making a claim about the real medical condition, and, it's also parodying the "symptoms" of other pharma spots you typically see. Very good play and furthermore, it's an indirect poke at the handcuffs American agencies have on them.

No, the best we got is a C&W band in a Nashville studio singing Elvis covers at one in the morning.

by Bill Green    Apr-23-09   Click to Comment   
Topic: Television   

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I'd almost bet the farm that this thing never sees the light of day in Canada. I'm guessing they were released purely as a publicity stunt to get some activity online and hope that a few Canadians (and Americans) "accidentally" see them.

Can anyone confirm these were actually aired anywhere?

Posted by: Jonathan Richman on April 24, 2009 10:41 AM

Couldn't agree more. We continue to be amazed that most in the Pharma Industry have no idea how to market their products. We've not only seen this with t.v. advertising, but also,direct marketing, online and even their attempts at marketing to pharmacists.In fact, we've written about it, too.

Alan Maites

Posted by: Alan Maites on April 24, 2009 10:50 AM

Agreed. It is almost impossible for pharmaceutical advertisements to cut through the clutter due to the regulations put on its advertising. Almost all pharmaceutical advertisement sells the category of drug more than the actual product, unless it is the first of its kind to be advertised, it is lost in the advertising black hole in a consumers mind. If the regulations were lifted slightly, the advertisements could cut through, entertain and actually do their jobs by helping the consumers remember the product instead of the category and what it does and its endless symptoms.

Posted by: Inga on April 26, 2009 10:42 PM

sorry, but I cannot see what these brilliant ads have to do with the regulations you're talking about. I can see no "mild" vs "strong" vs "power" problems here. they simply don't think in these categories. which shows the US problem is not a problem of getting rid of legal requirements but of clients (and maybe some ad people) who only think of how to bypass legal restrictions instead of switching on their creative brains.

Posted by: artin on April 27, 2009 7:28 AM

@artin - Reread again. Have you even worked in pharma? Those words aren't describing this ad. They're what happens in every single pharma brainstorm in the U.S. Of course the rest of the world doesn't think that way because they don't have to, for the reasons mentioned.

It IS about the legal requirements. That ad ain't running here because it skirts a lot of the regs the industry follows. If agencies could do stuff like that here, they already would've, trust me. That's the whole point. U.S. market could be whole lot more creative if it didn't have to follow certain guidelines.

As for brilliant ads here, no manufacturer is going to approve a spot like that, full of innuendo and no REAL product benefits. (Eliminates sports watching on TV is cute and all, but Pfizer and most pharma brands want to talk about the actual drug and condition in a more serious way.)

That's the Catch-22: Those benefits would be related to the actual condition and thereby the requirements of all that legal copy negates any cleverness you'd want to try. Soon as anyone here says "I took (X)..." that changes the whole ad and what you can say.

Posted by: bg on April 27, 2009 11:48 AM

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