Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Alli Ad Campaign Promises Honesty, But Does It Deliver?

Do you have a "extra pair of pants" with you today! GSK recommends you do when starting a regimen of its over-the-counter diet pill alli! But you might also sh*t your pants when you hear how much GSK is spending on its Alli ad campaign this year -- $150 million!

I think I read that right in the WSJ article "Company Touts Over-The-Counter Diet Pill."

But the year is nearly half over! On an annual basis then, GSK is spending closer to $300 million promoting this product!

I've blogged about the pooping-in-pants side effect of alli before (see "Alli Oops! I Just Pooped Myself!"). It's going to take some effective marketing BS to counteract that!

And what's GSK marketing strategy?

Is Alli Honesty the Best Policy?
"We've done everything to go out of our way to be honest," said Steve Burton, vice president of the weight control division at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare. "We're taking a very different approach than the fad diets people are constantly exposed to."

Burton himself pooped his pants when taking alli, so he feels consumers' pain.

How honest GSK will be about alli remains to be seen, especially after taking a loss because of the Avandia Avalanche (see "Advice to GSK on Handling the Avandia Avalanche: Don't Do What Merck Did"). GSK is "counting on alli to become a star money maker." It must be counting faster now!

In my Alli Oops! post back in February, I pointed out that the alli web site was less than honest about bringing the pooping side effect -- which may affect up to 50% of alli users -- to the front burners of the site. NOTE; Don't go to -- that's an ad portal site obviously not owned by GSK. Go to

The honesty is really all about the amount of weight you can lose taking alli, not about the amount of poop you will make in your pants!

The home page of the site says: "it's time for an honest voice."

But I find that aside from burying the pooping side effect deep within the site (I'm not going to get into that again here), this site is FAR FROM HONEST!

It includes a "message board," which makes it one of the first pharmaceutical product sites that purports to incorporate "honest" "social networking" tools for visitors. This board is probably built from GSK's experience with the site Question Everything, which I reviewed previously (see "Question Everything"). I found that site less than honest about the amount of weight you can lose taking alli. Read my post and see for yourself.

The current incarnation of message boards on the site gives me the willies -- in less than one second I have come across a post entitled "Looking Forward to a Real Chance" supposedly written by a real person, an ordinary "Joe consumer." I seriously question the authenticity of this guy who calls himself "Calamari Slim."

Why do I believe Calamari Slim is really a shill for alli, probably a copy writer in the alli PR agency?
1. The title of this post, like most of the titles for other posts, sticks pretty close to the advertising play book and doesn't sound like something a "real" person would use. It's difficult to come up with catchy titles for essays!

2. The 782-word posting, which is rather long-winded for a typical message board posting, contains absolutely NO spelling errors and only one typo: a double "and", which even a PR copy writer can be guilty of from time to time. But no mis-spellings? I can't believe it. Even when I use a spell checker, my posts often end up with several wayward words.

3. The grammar and style is impeccably beautiful! Here's an excerpt:
I came across this site by accident. I had heard of Xenical, but with all the other health problems I'd had as of late, taking a "vanity diet pill" that I knew wasn't going to be the miracle cure-all. But it seems that things change, and that the fortune's wheel has come in my direction, a final chance to slim down...or (and I have to admit this to myself) end up dying in a pathetic and pitiless manner that I could have avoided.

I have too much riding now to miss this chance. I know many of you are thinking the same thing. We will succeed - we have to, for one reason or another, whether it's slimming into those old jeans that used to fit, or to be able to look good on the beach again, or even to be able to live past the age of 50. The drug mentioned here isn't the cure-all. It's a supplement, just as PT (physical training) is. Just as self-restraint is. Just as a positive mindset is. They're all pieces of the puzzle, parts of the core, and we'll do this, either separate or together (I recommend together, since we've all come here to the site).
You tell me if you think this is something a "real" person would write. Remember, I picked this post virtually at random!

4. The content of the post tracks perfectly with GSK's marketing strategy! This is just too much of a coincidence for me!
If the product website is any indication of alli ad campaign honesty, then I say that GSK has a long way to go to deliver on its promise!


  1. Anonymous8:53 AM


    I share your scepticism. If you are right, and GSK is claiming to be "honest" while Calamari Slim is a poser, then that is about as obscenely mistrustful as a company can get.

    And even if you are wrong, the fact that an observer like yourself has to be suspicious of such a post is, I find, damning in itself.

    I've also posted today on the subject of pharma industry trust, at
    though of course you may remove that reference if you consider it inappropriate advertising on your blog.

    Regardless, this is more evidence of a systemic trust problem where the currency of communication is becoming debased by what pharma companies are saying.

  2. Charles,

    Thanks for your comment.

    No problem posting a link to your site -- it looks like a site I should visit often!


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