Saturday, September 10, 2005

After School Cialis Ads

On August 2, 2005, Lilly announced its support of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association's (PhRMA) comprehensive guiding principles on consumer advertising of prescription medicines (see "Lilly Announces Support of Drug Industry Principles on Consumer Advertising of Prescription Medicines").

Lilly further stated that it planned " to take action to an even higher standard than the guiding principles." I.,e.

"The company, along with its partner ICOS Corporation, will limit the advertising of Cialis to programs when younger audiences are unlikely to be viewing. In doing so, the companies will commit to target programming with at least 90 percent adult viewers. Cialis television advertisements will not air during the broadcast of major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl and the Olympics, which are likely to draw large numbers of younger viewers. The companies will begin implementing these changes immediately, with full compliance within 60 days."
It all depends, however, on what Lilly means by "immediately" and "full compliance."

Last Thursday, my 15-year old son was sitting in front of the TV after school at 3 PM watching ESPN (or ESPN2, whatever) as he often does. From my nearby home office I heard "erectile dysfunction" and quickly ran in to see the end of a Cialis ad on the TV.


"Dad," said my son, "what's up?" [Pun intended] "You are obsessed with these drug ads!"


"It's my business to follow this stuff," I said. "The drug industry promised to follow rules to limit these types of ads to times when kids like you would not likely be watching."


"You mean they broke the law just now?" he asked.


I tried to explain within his attention span timeframe that, no, it wasn't a law but a voluntary agreement, which, if all drug companies obeyed, might prevent the government making a new law.


"Whatever," he said as he continued to watch the pre-season football analysis.


I was mildly surprised to see the Cialis ad at that time of the day. Will lilly claim that the ESPN audience at 3 PM on a weekday -- 20 minutes after the nation's male high school students return home from school -- is "90 percent adult?" What kind of male adult is home watching ESPN at 3 PM on a weekday? Probably a loser without a job who can't get it up! [Not me! I have a real job! Well, it's my own business, but I'm doing very well, thank you! Anyway, I digress.]


Not two minutes later, Bob, the Enzyte guy, appeared in an ad on the tube! Remember Bob? If not, see "
The Two Bobs: Enzyte vs. Viagra". It seemed to me that Cialis was running ads in competition with Enzyte (perhaps vice versa -- like Wendy's building franchises across the street from McDonald's to piggyback on their market research).

So, Lilly has not "immediately" implemented its promised DTC changes. Why not? I haven't seen any Viagra ads on TV lately. It seems that Pfizer was able to cut those back rather immediately (that's a story for a future post). Why can't Lilly do the same? At least they could have said to ESPN to run the ads only after 10 PM. That wouldn't have broken a contract or cost them much, would it? Even so, they could have done it.
[The problem may be that not many parents are home to monitor what their kids are seeing on TV. What's the likelihood of a kooky parent like me -- a parent that cares -- being there with his son in the afternoon? Marketers might gamble that an after-school ED ad would escape notice and they would likely win the bet.

I am thinking of calling Lilly to complain. If you want to complain as well, try these people: Edward Sagebiel, +1-317-433-9899, or Phil Belt, 317-276-2506, both of Eli Lilly and Company. I don't know who they are, but they were listed in mouse-size print at the bottom of Lilly's press release. While you are at it, you might call Enzyte Customer Care at 1-866-834-1715 and complain to them as well. Good luck with that!]
Hey, Lilly said what it plans to do and it is doing it. I guess we are not yet in the "full compliance" mode; after all, there are still 30 days or so left until Lilly has to comply with the letter of it own code, if not the spirit.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:38 AM

    In 18 months, and not one "Good idea, John, and thank you for taking the time to read the small print for us and find those numbers"?

    Where are voices of parents to echo your understandable concerns about this?

    I see it as yet another unobtrusive announcement that Rome is burning ... only to find that those who should be listening are either carrying torches or selling them.

    Bill Harris
    Seattle, WA

    ReplyDelete