Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pharma: Your Brand Celebrity Spokespersons Are Worthless!

A survey developed by WP Engine and fielded by TNS found that nearly ALL consumers (96%) do NOT want to see stories about how celebrities use a company’s products (see "Majority of Americans Want Original Content Directly from Brands -- Not Stories About How Celebrities Use Products").

This should be a wake up call for pharmaceutical marketers, many of whom are wasting precious marketing dollars hiring celebrities to "talk" about their products.

The most famous pharma brand celebrity spokesperson is pro golfer Phil Mickelson who talks about Enbrel in TV ads. Even BEFORE he was hired by Amgen, Mickelson talked about Enbrel, making outrageous claims that would never pass FDA regulatory muster if they were repeated in an ad (see image on left and read "Phil Disclosure: Mickelson is a Serial Undisclosed Celebrity Endorser").

One pharma celebrity spokesperson achieved notoriety for posting the first ever Tweet mentioning an Rx brand name. Unfortunately, it was a less-than-stellar moment. I called the Tweet "sleazy Twitter spam" (see "Novo Nordisk's Branded (Levemir) Tweet is Sleazy Twitter Spam!"). Don't worry, Novo and I are still friends.

Another famous "celebrity" hired by a pharmaceutical company to promote a brand was "fired" for making inappropriate racial comments. Can you guess who it was?

No it wasn't Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. But the comments made by Paula Deen -- Novo Nordisk's erstwhile Victoza diabetes drug spokesperson -- were of a similar (or worse!) nature; i.e., a tad racist, as in admitting in a videotaped deposition as part of a discrimination suit that “Yes, of course,” she has used the "N" word (see "Should Novo Nordisk Dump Deen?").

At the time, Novo refused to say that Deen was fired. Instead, Novo said "Novo Nordisk and Paula Deen have mutually agreed to suspend our patient education activities for now, while she takes time to focus her attention where it is needed." Ha! At a recent pharma agency cocktail party a Novo person admitted that "Paula is gone."

Wow! Not only are pharma brand spokesperson celebrities ignored by consumers, some tend to be sleazy, opportunistic, and racist! Three strikes and Yer Out!


  1. Anonymous8:11 AM

    If you ask people if that are racist 100% will deny it, It is an error to conclude that racism is a thing of the past. If you ask folk to name the 3 people they do not admire and the answers are Oprah, MLK and Obama you get a more accurate impression.

    I am sure these ads influence decision making and that Pharma knows that.

    1. I guess pharma marketers wouldn't be spending money if they weren't getting a decent ROI... ROFL!

    2. I am a Rare Disorder EPatient & Patient Advocate. I often say "Children & Chronic Illness Patients can smell BS a mile away." We can tell in a persons words or by the look in their eye if they have been in the trenches we have & continue to live in daily. It's not illness specific. It's human specific. There are incredible medications, durable medical equipment and devices on the market but it would be nice to see real patients working with pharma to market them. We are the consumers of these products and other patients would be able to tell we aren't actors or just cashing in on their misery. It is hard to trust famous personalities motivation when they market drugs. You say pharma must be getting a "decent ROI," but don't you think patients making an authentic connection with another patient would increase trust in a drug and brand that would carry over to future products? Trust is everything with patients & not easy to obtain. Lose it and you have nothing. Gain it and we all are rewarded in advancement in technology through clinical research participation and new medications & device approval. That will result in brand respect. I always look for long term ROI not a one shot deal. There aren't many cures & new patients are being diagnose daily that need to be able to trust their Healthcare providers & trust is built in relationships not by famous people on the TV screen or print ads or videos. We see them rise and fall daily. Yet we are always here hoping & waiting for a hero to be our champion in the Healthcare Arena. Someone or something we can trust so we can rest and actually be sick and not have to feel like we have to save our own lives 24/7. Will Pharma be a Hero? We shall all see.


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