Saturday, September 24, 2011

BI's Famously Unpronounceable Video Lives On!

A day or two after I posted my impression of Boehringer's (BI's) new YouTube video that spoofs efforts to pronounce the company's name through "word of mouth" (WOM) marketing, BI made the video private and unviewable by the general public. BUT, thanks to "crazyparrot1000," the video has been uploaded here. I have also embedded it below:

Last night, I tweeted: "@Boehringer Sorry to see that the parrot video was made private. Was this a project approved high up in BI?" As of yet, I have not received a response to that tweet.

Why did BI decide to block viewing of this video less than 48 hours after it debuted on YouTube? In a tweet, BI said "The vid was made for a test & the period of time was short, so that is why the vid must be made private for now."

Sorry, but I'm not buying that.

I think my followup post (BI Masters the Art of WOM through Its "Parrots," er, Spokespersons) nudged BI into realizing it had made a mistake. In that post, I pointed out that BI was slapped by the PMCPA regarding how it may have dissed the competition via its real-life Word of Mouth "parrots" -- ie, patient advocates, key opinion leaders, and the press. The following image sums it up nicely, IMHO:

I sincerely wish BI gave me a chance to preview this video while I was at a recent pharma eMarketing conference in Lisbon where I first learned that BI was going to launch something big on YouTube the following week. I may have criticized the video for being too sexist (the women are all very well endowed and are referred to as "lovely ladies").

Maybe -- just maybe -- it could have been negative reaction from BI's employees regarding the inappropriateness of buxom lab techs that got BI to remove the video. If so, I think BI should make that known and offer a public apology. What do you think?

Is this BI parrot video sexist & does BI need to apologize publicly?
Yes and BI should apologize
Yes, but no need for BI to apologize
Not sexist and no need for BI to apologize
Not sexist but BI should apologize anyway for wasting money on this

In any case, perhaps the video was not green-lighted by the higher ups in BI, but I bet it was shut down by them!

Lessons Learned
P.S. A lesson learned by BI is that you often cannot take back what you did via social media and YouTube. Despite the attempt of BI to block the viewing of its video, it lives on in the version that was copied and re-uploaded by "crazyparrot1000." BI acknowledged this in a retweet of a tweet notifying them that the video was still on YouTube: "Yes we are! Power of #sm :) RT @xilede: @Boehringer you are aware that the parrots are still around on #youtube, right?"

BI is now backpedaling and claiming the whole thing was sort of a university thesis project: "As @BoehringerUK said, Uni of Mainz is now preparing thesis on vid. Entire prject was trial balloon & now analysis comes! #hcsm"

In previous tweets, however, BI was making a big deal about how this video is ushering in its new emphasis on word of mouth marketing:

"Embarking on a new comms journey, @Boehringer has started to push the idea of WOM. Watch to learn more #hcmktg #pharma"

"An idea needs to fly and we take this literally. Take a moment & watch our short video on #YouTube #mtv @raycokes #pharma"

Unfortunately, it seems the idea of this video should NOT have flown!

Will BI, however, try to get YouTube/Google to remove the copy of the video uploaded by "crazyparrot1000?" It's possible. I suggest you copy it ASAP before this happens. One thing I learned at the Lisbon conference is how to do this: Go to site


  1. Anonymous6:53 AM

    I'd love to hear how this idea was sold, and how Boehringer Ingelheim justified funding it.
    A pharma being this innovative should be congratulated, but it needs to be for appropriate reasons. If it was merely telling people how to pronounce Boehringer Ingelheim, then the decision was naïve. Who cares?! [apart from BI]. It looks like a vanity piece, and from my limited info of this project; shows they might have more money than sense. If I was a shareholder, I'd be livid!
    The EuroTrash feel is also not in keeping with the BI brand.
    Seemingly unfocussed projects like this can potentially damage a brand. But more worryingly, could deter other pharmas from using social media in future.
    If someone in BI has tried to quash this video, unfortunately the parrot is out of the bag!

  2. Yes, if only I could have been a fly on that wall!

  3. We feel we should provide a few more facts to the discussion, that may shed some light to the project.
    This communications experiment was done in the best interest to make the company name better known using a very innovative path and content plan to do this.
    Particularly, for younger audiences this was supposed to be appealing.

    It was therefore done with the enthusiastic support of many BI employees. It was filmed in an old production facility near Ingelheim in one single day and with the help of Boehringer Ingelheim apprentices who had volunteered and had great fun taking part in the filming as an unusual business experience.
    For communication professionals, this project, that travelled through viral channels and was spread within social media, was and is indeed insightful and full of learnings, particularly since there is no example from the pharmaceutical industry yet.

    Understanding viral communication dynamics better was a clear goal. The evaluation is now being completed with the University of Mainz.

    We are looking forward to the results which could help us shape communication more appropriately with regard to respective audiences.

    All in all, we appreciate all feedback, yours is clearly insightful, too. - Boehringer Comms

  4. Faith,

    Thank you for your comments. I did notice in the video a few less glamorous "apprentices" in the background -- I guess these are the BI employees you mention.

    With regard to the Mainz evaluation: I assume the evaluation results will be proprietary, but perhaps you might present an overview some day soon? You are welcome to do that as a contribution to Pharma Marketing News or, better yet, on my BlogTalkRadio show. If you are interested, please let me know.

  5. I had noticed the BI tweet and curious as I am had viewed the vid. my first reactions were and still are:
    1. Wow, what has happened to pharma?
    2. Mmmm, BI sounds like hiring supermodels...where on earth have they found them?
    3. How come these ladies spend so much money on top hairdressers, make up artists, expensive shoes, BI should pay well...
    4. Does BI pay catwalk classes to female employees??
    4. Got the feeling the parrot got dizzy by looking at the decollete of the lab lady,and couldn't pronounce BI..
    Seriously, why there should be even indirect sex appeal in a pharma ad?

  6. lol, I loev when a social media stunt by a large pharmaceutical company goes awry.


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