IT happened last week on an episode of the Sopranos.
I'm not talking about Tony maneuvering Robert "Bobby Bacala" Baccalieri, Jr. to "pop his cherry" and kill someone as part of a deal to import counterfeit drugs from Canada into the US. That subplot -- no doubt in my mind -- was paid for by PhRMA, the drug industry's trade association and long-time terrorist scare-monger (see "PhRMA's Terrorist Plot").
So WHAT am I talking about?
Let me try and do this without mentioning any product name (search engine spiders be damned!).
I am talking about a DTC ad appearing within the Sopranos -- an ad for a sleep aid medication that features a historical figure in a stove-pipe hat and a creepy woodlands creature that talks.
According to DTC expert Bob Ehrlich:
"If the [DRUG NAME REDACTED] ad does not deliver positive ROI, then at least it will live forever in Sopranos boxed DVD's and in syndication. That is more of a legacy than most marketers get."To which I MUST say, whaaaa!?
Holy shit! There it is folks! In black and white: LEGACY, NOT SALES is what up-and-coming pharmaceutical marketers should strive for!
I mean, how else are we to interpret this? Erhlich, at least twice in his DTC Perspectives commentary, side steps the ROI issue:
"I am not sure if [HISTORICAL FIGURE IN STOVE-PIPE HAT] and [CREEPY WOODLANDS CREATURE] have sold enough sleeping pills for [GULLIBLE PHARMA COMPANY, WHICH SEEMS TO BE PROFITING ENOUGH FROM OTHER PRODUCTS TO ENABLE IT TO IGNORE LOSES ON ITS SLEEP AID PRODUCT] to get a good ROI."
"Only [SAID COMPANY] has the actual performance data to decide whether this commercial is successful. The fact that they continue to run it says they believe it is good."Bull! What do you mean only [DUMB DRUG COMPANY] has the "actual performance data"? The numbers are out there -- and don't take this blogger's word for it. See this post made to The World of DTC Marketing: "Spend $110 million for $76 million in sales?"
How's that for performance?
Erhlich encapsulates what appears to be every pharma marketer's wet dream:
"[DRUG COMPANY THAT NEEDS TO WAKE UP -- YOUR AD AGENCY HAS NO CLOTHES! HELLOOO!] has been criticized for creating this odd commercial. Bloggers have been poking fun at it and pointing out how poorly it has done [UNDERSTATEMENT]. Yet, being selected to be part of a Sopranos episode is a creative honor that most marketers would welcome. I remember feeling proud that my brand, Junior Mints, was featured on Seinfeld when Kramer dropped one in the stomach cavity of a surgery patient. There is something great about being incorporated into pop culture."Bob, have you made this argument to the shareholders of [DRUG COMPANY THAT IS SATISFIED WITH ABOUT 3% SHARE OF THE SLEEP AID MARKET]?
Who knows? Maybe the last episode of The Sopranos will immortalize Avandia and incorporate IT into pop culture as the instrument of Tony's Soprano's death. Here's the plot line:
Tony finds out he has Type II diabetes and Phil Leotardo, who is pissed off that Tony viciously beat up one of his men for harassing his daughter, recommends a doctor, who unbeknowst to Tony, owes Phil a favor. This doctor prescribes Avandia to treat Tony, who promptly has a massive MI and collapses on top of a stripper in the back room of the Bada Bing [I know ... that MI has been a long time coming, Avandia or no Avandia]. Sil, as he has done many times before with other dead bodies, cuts up Tony's body and makes it disappear at sea off Atlantic City, NJ. For good measure he also has the whole Soprano family whacked and he and his wife gloat in the final scene as they contemplate their new pop culture fame.To be continued as a new HBO series...The Dantes in Hell!