Monday, September 17, 2007

"Yee Hah" Direct to Consumer Advertising

An editorialist at The Day (New London, CT) had some choice comments about the current direct to consumer (DCT) advertising of Viagra (sildenafil), the erectile dysfunction (ED) drug made by Pfizer Inc.

Pfizer Inc. denies it, but it sure appears it no longer markets Viagra as simply medicine, but encourages recreational use by projecting an aphrodisiac-like image.

In 2005 Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies peddling male impotence drugs toned down their advertising after the Food and Drug Administration criticized sexually-suggestive commercials that paid little attention to the medical problem the drugs are intended to address — erectile dysfunction (ED).

Pfizer, which had run TV advertisements of men growing blue devilish horns when the Viagra logo appeared, turned in late 2005 to conservative spots....

But the conservative strategy apparently produced impotent sales because Pfizer is back to using a 'yee-hah' approach to selling the little blue pill. New spots feature the catchy tune 'Viva Viagra,' sung in one commercial by a group of guitar-picking manly men who apparently share a desire not to disappoint their partners.
n another commercial a distinguished man twirls his date around the dance floor to the tune, before heading up the elevator with her for you know what. These advertisements frequently pop up when family members are watching a sporting event or movie. Talk about intrusive.

Last Christmas season a Viagra commercial aired during the reindeer movie
'Prancer.' A commercial for competitor Cialis appeared on an early-evening presentation of 'Miracle on 34th Street.' Happy holidays.

Dr. Brian Klee, senior medical director on the Pfizer Viagra global medical team, said the company has taken new steps to target the commercials for predominately adult audiences and avoid broadcasting them around religious and family holidays. He also said the marketing strategy is not intended to encourage men who don't really need the drug to give it a try, but instead to persuade men who do need it to work up the courage to ask their doctor about it.

Visit on the web and you can see the 'real' Viva Viagra group singing.

Men visiting the site can then take a little quiz that basically leads to the conclusion that unless you're batting 1.000 in bed, you're a candidate for Viagra.

Apologies to Dr. Klee, but it appears clear the intent is to broaden the customer base for Viagra beyond men who are having real problems.

It is not spending that money because ED is a great medical scourge. It spends it to make money. Viagra sales totaled $836,436,000 for the company in 2007. It cannot achieve those kinds of sales figures without a lot of men asking for the blue pill, some who don't really need it. And with Pfizer profits falling 48 percent in the second quarter of this year, it needs sales.

Maybe there is nothing wrong with pushing Viagra this way. The drug has proved safe. It is the speciousness of Pfizer's approach that is maddening.

Having seen more than my fair share of Viagra (and Cialis) advertisements, often during nightly news programming, I share the editorialist's opinion that they are mainly about sex, not about erectile dysfunction.

Again, if pharmaceutical companies (and other health care organizations) were more honest about what they are doing, maybe they would no longer be regarded as "shifty."


Anonymous said...

I have yet to figure out the whole thing with the bathtubs.

Steve Lucas

Cornell said...

I actually agree. Viagra is not just a drug.. it is a way of saying that 'hey, you can still do it like when you were young'.. it is like encouraging old guys to have sex, not just of the same age, but of younger..