Monday, June 29, 2009

What Pharma Should NOT Learn from P&G and Pringles

My fellow blogger Jonathan Richman suggested that pharmaceutical marketers should follow the lead of P&G to create banner ads similar to the award-winning Pringles ad that Jonathan's agency created (see "What Pharma Can Learn from Pringles").

Jon, Congrats on the Pringle banner ad award! (See and play with the ad here.)

Jon suggests this ad could be a model for pharma:

"Imagine that Pringles was a pharma product for a minute. There’s no fair balance here, but it wouldn’t require it. The brand name is mentioned (if you click a few times), but nowhere does it include the 'indication:' potato crisps. I guess this makes this banner a reminder ad then.

"We pharma people love and hate reminder ads. We love them because we can promote the brand without the clutter of fair balance, but we hate them because we can’t get in any key messages. Regardless, pharma spends a lot of money on these. My point? If Pringles were pharma, this ad would be regulatory compliant. Just saying."

Pharma should not "love" drug reminder ads, at least those pharmaceutical companies that have signed on to PhRMA's guidelines for DTC (direct-to-consumer) advertising, which banned them on TV (but not, alas, in print or on the Internet). PhRMA says: "DTC television advertising that identifies a product by name should clearly state the health conditions for which the medicine is approved and the major risks associated with the medicine being advertised." Shouldn't that be best practice on the Internet as well? After all, DTC advertising is supposed to be educational according to PhrMA.

Guidelines or not, I would say no to this kind of banner ad for branded drugs simply because of my general distaste for drug reminder ads. Reminder ads may be fine for brands as well-recognized as Pringles and Viagra, which have nothing really new to say about themselves. But for a new drug, or a complicated drug, or a drug with a new indication, etc., how can you justify such an ad?

I would remind readers, BTW, that P&G claimed in an UK court that Pringles was NOT a "potato crisp" but a "savory snack." That's because it is only 40% potato! Maybe that's why it has resorted to a reminder ad! Just saying.


  1. Yikes. Teeing off on your fellow bloggers lately, eh? ; )

    It looks like you missed the entire point of my post, which was this: "Now, just to be clear, I’m not recommending that every pharma company make an ad like this. The whole talk about regulations is all academic. No pharma ad could probably get away with this tone. I’m actually not recommending that anyone make an ad like this. It’s been done. No one can really create a “never-ending banner” like this one anymore. But what I am saying is that there’s something for pharma to learn here."

    I even said the regulatory and reminder issues were not the point. The point is that pharma digital creative (and any industry) doesn't need to be lifeless. With a little extra effort and the right creative people, any advertising (even pharma) can be meaningful and interesting.

    I wish you quoted the relevant pieces of the article that were my main point, but here goes:

    "To be sure, I’m not recommending that you run out and make banner ads. I have no idea if you need banner ads or if they are part of your strategy. I want you to look bigger picture and realize that there are whole groups of really smart people that we don’t listen to because they aren’t in the pharma club or don’t know the handshake. Last time I checked, the pharma industry wasn’t doing that well at least compared to historical results. Maybe there’s no time like the present to start trying a new approach. Your equivalent Pringles banner ad may be a really innovative disease management tool or amazing caregive support website. Just keep going until you make whatever it is you are doing something that you can imagine people sharing on Twitter. Do you think we thought this would happen for a banner ad for potato crisps? Yes and no.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned since starting to work at my current company, it’s this: it takes very little extra effort to make something great. It takes a lot of effort something to get started and slightly more to make something good. Once you get to “good” though, there’s really not more you need to do in order to get to great. You do need the right people with the right kinds of thinking and the right amount of time and resources, but those are the ingredients. Of course, I’m making it sound really easy and leaving out one important piece: you need some brilliant creative people. It only takes one idea, but you need people who are constantly coming up with them to find the one. Fortunately, we happen to have these folks."

    Any thoughts on the important pieces?

    Jonathan Richman
    Dose of Digital

  2. Jonathan,

    Sorry I missed the finer points of your argument, but your post WAS titled "What Pharma Can Learn from Pringles." You use the Pringles ad as a better way, but then tell pharma not to follow this example?

    I think there is a bit of a mixed message in your post and if I can take away one message rather than the other, so can others, especially when you Tweet using the message "What Pharma Can Learn from Pringles."

    Regardless of whether or not I got your point, I wanted to make MY point -- it is my blog after all -- that drug reminder ads stink whether they be on TV, in print, or via Twitter or banner ads.

    You seem only to be against pharma following the Pringles lead because it could "never get away with it" and "it's already been done." You should have addressed other reasons why this type of ad is not good for pharma. Since you did not, I did.


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