Monday, January 04, 2010

The Trouble with YouTube: YAZ Case Study

Pharma marketers are being urged to use social media to reach their audience. High up on the list of recommended social media sites is YouTube, where many pharmaceutical companies have launched "channels" and uploaded videos. Among the first to do so was Johnson & Johnson, which has its JNJhealth channel. It's very nicely done.

The problem is that you cannot control what other videos may be highlighted by YouTube when your video is played OUTSIDE the channel. Let's look at the YAZ Birth Control's Channel as an example. You can find it here. It looks like this:

It looks fine in this context. But if you click on "View comments, related videos, and more," you leave the channel and see the video as a "Generic YouTube Video" as shown below:

Now you can see all the "Related Videos," many of which are from law firms suing Bayer and spoofs of YAZ TV commercials. Even though Bayer has turned off comments, it cannot prevent viewers from seeing these related videos.

Maybe that's OK with Bayer. It has a legal obligation to air corrective ads, but I am not sure this is part of that obligation (see "YAZ Commercial Yanked from TV, But Not from YouTube").

There is a link to the YAZ Birth Control Channel on the US YAZ Web site. Even with that link, the video has been viewed only 412 times and there is only one subscriber to the Channel -- me!

The YAZ Birth Control Channel (aka "YazBirthControlPillDiscussion") looks like it is designed for only one purpose: an in-depth "discussion" of risks and benefits, which I think it does adequately (although 8 minutes is beyond many people's YouTube attention spans).

Why Bayer chose to put this video on YouTube, where it must compete with negative videos from 3rd parties, is a mystery to me. It's not getting many views, has no subscribers (except me), and has no promise of future updates. Why not just keep the video on the product web site?

My advice to pharma marketers: Unless you intend to promote a real discussion or upload a series of videos that will enhance the value of your YouTube channel, stay away from YouTube!


  1. I agree that videos with "comments disabled" are off-putting (like on CDCStreamingHealth's channel). Even when I choose not to comment, I like to know the owner of the video is open to it or, at minimum, provides a reason why comments are disabled. I guess it is better than pretending to allow comments but heavily monitoring them before approval.

    The video itself is bit long but certainly appears to "check off" all the risk and benefit "boxes." I'd like to see them take advantage of illustration and graphics that take into account health literacy of the audience. I am now sure how helpful the powerpoint-style bullet points or how appropriate dense text information (see video at 5:25) really are in the video format.

    I am subscribed now (#2!) to this channel, so we'll see what else they are offering up in the future.

  2. Nice piece, and a valid concern. It's kinda like the web... can't control it but you can shout louder and hope the truth rises. Also there are 2 workarounds. First, branded channels put your own stuff above related videos. Second- You can buy a featured related video spot targeted to your own video (I think)... if you look at some of my Nalts videos you'll see a yellow highlight with someone paying CPC to poach my traffic. Hope it makes me money. :)

  3. And here's another thing. Remember in 1999 when pharma firms were all frightened of the context of the Internet? That's the WILD WEST, they'd say. Same for YouTube. You control what you can, you turn off comments unless you want to manage the 3 you'll get in a month, and you hope your message is easier to find than someone trashing you. We've complicated emerging media, non?

  4. Nalts,

    Thanks for the insights. While your own stuff is at the top of the related video list, when you do not have any stuff, it's a moot point.

  5. John,
    Thanks for the article. Good points everyone. As with the Google sidewiki model, which I KNOW John loves, one of the night terrors of social media for corporations, are comments and content on your site which are out of your control. Related content, whether it be our or other videos, generally are in keeping with what's in the player, but alas, are sometimes glaringly inappropriate. Other than buying a totally branded channel, which costs a load of $$$, I just see that as part of the risk/reward of being "social". As far as comments, we feel that it is important to allow them, but also that they be moderated. I'll pretty much put up anything, even if negative, except for insulting, obscene or commercial comments, of which there are many. It's the Wild West out there!


  6. Rob,

    Thanks for your comment.

    How much money does it actually cost to buy a totally branded YouTube channel? Compared to $0, anything may seem like a "load of $$$."

    Aside from that, the JNJHealth channel works well because you have loads of your own related videos that get top billing AND you allow comments, which add more value than competing videos. It's a good example of managing the space without SHOUTING yet allowing your audience to shout at you -- hopefully not too often ;-)

  7. It doesn't cost anything, really, unless you're buying ads that push people there. You can design any sort of background you need to create a branded YouTube page

  8. The issue with comments isn't isolated to the fear of negative comments. The greater concern is taht the pharma company is required by law to explore and substantiate any and all claims. Therefore if someone posted to this Yaz page that the drug helped them cure cancer, then Yaz would be responsible for testing this claim ($$$). Further once the claim has been tested, they would then be required to state in all marketing that the drug does not, in fact, cure cancer (requiring more time on ISI type info and less on promoting the product).

    My 2 Cents...

  9. Hmmm... I never heard of the responsibility of drug companies to test claims about their products made by 3rd parties. Can you tell me where YOU heard of this?


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