Monday, December 10, 2007

DTC Critters to Strike - Cite New Media Residuals as Issue

NEW YORK, New York (PMB) -- The Critters that appear in many direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug ads will go on strike early Tuesday after their negotiating team recommended a walkout over royalties that could immediately pinch primetime news shows that depend on the ads for revenue.

The DTC Critters Guild of America (DTC-CGA) board voted unanimously to strike as of 12:01 a.m. Monday (3:01 a.m. ET), officials said.

The walkout will be the first in 10 years since the FDA loosened DTC regulations.

Mr. Mucinex, the Critter star of the Mucinex anti-phlegm ads, said a strike is all but inevitable.

"We've never been more united and we are willing to deal -- and our decision-makers are all over the table, under the table, wherever" said Mucinex.

"Pharma company decision-makers and their ad producers are not at the table and that tells you pretty much all you need to know about how the companies are pushing this."

The news of a possible strike is not unexpected, said a representative of the Pharmaceutical Advertising Board for Leadership by United Manufacturers (PABLUM), which represents about 90% of DTC advertisers.

"By the DTC-CGA leadership's disgusting, slimy actions at the bargaining table, we are not surprised by tonight's recommendation," the PABLUM spokesperson said in a statement on the PABLUM Web site (www.pablum.org). "We are ready to meet and are prepared to close this contract this weekend. But we'd rather not meet with Mr. 'Phlegm' or that stinging bee critter!"

The labor impasse is over royalties from use of DTC in alternative media such as blogs, podcasts, web boards, YouTube -- all the various places their works are now distributed, including Internet downloads.

"The future of DTC on TV is not going to look like what it's been for the last 30 years," said Beaver, who is the well-known Critter in Rozerem sleep aid DTC ads.

Beaver is shown here is a new online DTC ad. Under his current contract with Takeda, Beaver is paid a flat rate and does not benefit from increased visitors this ad brings to the Web site or royalties based on the number of clickthroughs.
"So, you know it's not just for us who are currently working," says Beaver, "but writers down the line, that we make sure that we get a... piece of the pie."

One of those critters who may be coming "down the line" is Stippy the Turd (shown on the right) who hopes to appear in future Amitiza DTC ads.

"The current Amitiza TV ad is pretty plain and not very catchy," says Stippy. He cited the following review recently published on Pharma Marketing Blog: "Amitiza DTC Ads Won't Win Any Awards, But..."

"Although I'd rather be working," claims Stippy, "I realize that the potty - er, I mean pot - may be bigger for me down the road if I support the strike now."

Some Critters, however, will benefit more than others from a new deal with the DTC ad producers.

Beaver, for example, is more active online than on TV these days. That means he gets very little current income no matter how popular he is online.

Some other, non-Critter DTC stars may suffer by being out of work during the strike.

Honest Abe is a case in point.

"This strike is going to be bad not only for non-Critters, but also for Critters themselves," argues Abe. "Many Critters will never, ever get any online exposure. That's because most pharmaceutical companies spend very little on online marketing. They especially are afraid of 'new media.' I just don't see, therefore, what all the fuss is about."

"That's easy for Abe to say," snips Beaver. "His livelihood doesn't depend on pharma DTC advertising. He also appears in many, many ads in other industry verticals. He's never lacking current income!"

At press time, it wasn't clear if non-Critters like Abe would honor the Critter picket lines. However, it's difficult to see how Takeda, for example, could run Rozerem TV ads with just Abe and without Beaver.

Producers say the royalty issues are non-starters, but Critters accuse producers of being nonresponsive.

If DTC ad Critters do go on strike, primetime network news shows would feel the pinch first.

Because of their aged audience, networks receive nearly 90% of ad revenue for nightly news shows from DTC advertising.

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