Ad Age Ed to #Pharma: "Take a Chill Pill," Dude! Learn from Tobacco Industry | Pharmaguy's Insights Into Drug Industry News |

[Comments from Ken Wheaton, the editor of Advertising Age]:


Are pharmaceutical executives insane or have they simply been dipping into the product a little too much? It's a rude question, I know, but it's one worth asking.


I was a little flummoxed by some of the industry "reasoning" put forward in our piece about pharmaceutical companies turning to terror tactics in their marketing (see here;


To be clear, no one's confused about why companies are using scare tactics. Because fearmongering works. It's Advertising 101. And there's no better way to monger some fear than "Buy this or die."


What's a little confusing is the idea that companies need to get darker with advertising and spend more money on advertising because prices have increased. Are we sure that cause and effect isn't exactly backward?


Sure, I get that there is a lot of expensive research and development that goes into making pharmaceuticals that work. And an economist could argue that drug research, manufacturing, pricing and the subsequent marketing all add up to a complex ecosystem.


But to the average consumer, or even to politicians, there's no mystery here.


Pharmaceutical companies are jacking up prices, and one of the reasons they're doing that is because they're paying for multibillion-dollar ad campaigns used to scare people into buying more drugs. [Pharma spends even MORE – perhaps 5X as much - “motivating” PHYSICIANS to prescribe more drugs!]


…In the last couple of years, we've not only seen more scary drug ads, it seems like we're seeing new diseases. It's one thing to say, "Here's a cure for those allergies you've always had." It's another to say, "You've never heard of pneumococcal pneumonia until today, but it might kill your mom." Or: "Sure, you've heard of that meningitis, but have you heard about this other one that might kill your son after he makes out at a party?" (So goes the basic premise for a spot for Pfizer's Trumenba. See here: Or: "Grandma will turn into a wolf and slobber disease all over your baby if she doesn't get this whooping cough vaccine” (see here:


That last was from GSK. A spokesperson assured us the wolf was symbolic and it was CGI (you know, because that was the concern). She also said the ad tested well with grandparents. Of course it did. Like I said, fearmongering is a powerful marketing tool. Especially when dealing with grandparents and grandchildren. It's downright genius.


My prescription? Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Dial back the fearmongering. Don't price-gouge. Don't throw up roadblocks for generics. Show some restraint and listen to complaints.


Otherwise, prepare yourselves for the possibility that this particular corner of the marketing world may go the way of tobacco.