Friday, September 02, 2016

Are We at the Saturation Point Viz-a-Viz Celebrity Pharma Endorsements?

I read with interest today's email missive from Bob Ehrlich, Chairman of DTC Perspectives. He was talking about the "Dry Eye DTC Battle" between Allergan's Restasis and the new kid on the bloc: Shire's Xiidra (two i's - get it? aka two "eyes").

Ehrlich pointed out that Shire enlisting Jennifer Aniston is a "big get. Getting a movie star to promote the dry eye condition must have cost Shire a lot in talent fees," said Ehrlich.

"Obviously they think she is worth it. Her ad just went on air under the 'myeyelove' title" (read "Jennifer Aniston is Shilling for Shire!").

Ehrlich noted that Aniston is getting "lots of commercial endorsements these days. She is touting skin care brand Aveeno and plugging the comforts of Emirate Airways. I am sure Shire considered whether we at a Jennifer saturation point. My feeling is we can take a couple more campaigns before she gets overused."

My view is that celebs are being overused by pharma marketers these days. Why?

First, there's the money.

Ehrlich mentions talent fees, which the pharmaceutical industry does not disclose as opposed to the sports apparel industry, which, I believe, often does disclose fees paid to celebrity endorsers. This is just another lack of transparency by the drug industry, which together with the lack of transparency about drug pricing is hurting the industry's reputation (see survey results below).

Just recently, for example, Sarah Jessica Parker stopped shilling for Mylan because of the EpiPen pricing controversy (read about it here). Aren't we all tired of holier-than-thou celebrities that make a deal with the "devil" (for $ mostly) and then get all upset when the devil makes them look bad by acting badly? I know I am!

Second, consumers are not impressed.

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 (read "Pharma: Your Brand Celebrity Spokespersons Are Worthless!"). This should be a wake up call for pharmaceutical marketers who are wasting precious marketing dollars hiring celebrities to "talk" about their products.

Third, reputations are at stake.

Both Parker and Anniston appeared in unbranded campaigns that do not mention an Rx product by name. A STATnews reporter suggested that "image-conscious celebrities are more willing to tie themselves to a campaign focused on raising awareness of a health condition, as opposed to promoting a product."

But it works the other way around also: brand name drugs can be tarnished by the bad behavior of celebrities. The classic case, IMHO, is the hit Victoza took when celebrity chef endorser Paula Deen was caught using the "N' word (read "Should Novo Nordisk Dump Deen?").

Fourth, who's kidding who?

Back to Aniston shilling for Shire. “We picked up a magazine and there was a story about Jennifer [Aniston] and she mentioned that she's addicted to eye drops,” said Vic Noble, head of marketing, ophthalmics, for Shire. "A few phone calls later and she was on board, Noble noted, adding that “this is an issue she's been dealing with for a while.”

If you believe that story, then I have a bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you!

Why do drug marketers always claim that they read about celebrities with exactly the health problem their drug treats BEFORE they hire them to shill for the product? I bet the story mentioned by Noble was an "audition" for the part and the fact that Aniston is plugging other products only goes to prove my point that her people probably approached Shire rather than Shire just stumbling upon a story about her dry eyes in a magazine. I have noticed this before (read "Is Phil Mickelson Shilling for Enbrel?").

I'll be adding these celebrity endorsers to my "Gallery of Drug Advertising Celebrities" Slideshare deck, which you can download here.

Pharma Paid Celebrity Best Practices
The Pharma Marketing News "Use of Paid Celebrity Spokespeople" survey asked respondents to indicate how strongly they agreed or disagreed with the following statements regarding the use celebrities as pharma-paid spokespeople:
  • Celebrities should NOT be paid to promote branded drugs.
  • It's OK to pay celebrities to participate in unbranded disease awareness campaigns.
  • Celebrity spokespeople provide a good return on marketing investment (ie, increase sales) for certain Rx drugs.
  • Each pharmaceutical company should be required by law to publicly disclose how much money it pays every celebrity for being a spokesperson.
The results are summarized in the following chart, which shows the percentage of respondents who strongly agree or somewhat agree with each statement (N=112). Pharma Respondents (orange bars, N=64) are comprised of people working within pharmaceutical companies or agencies that work for pharmaceutical companies. Non-Pharma Respondents (green bars, N=49) are everyone else (consumers, healthcare professionals, academics, and publishers/bloggers).

Celebs Chart

Of the Pharma Respondents who agreed that each pharmaceutical company should be required by law to publicly disclose how much money it pays every celebrity for being a spokesperson, 57% Strongly Agreed and 43% Somewhat Agreed. Only a very small percentage (3%) were neutral.

What do you think? Take the survey here.

1 comment:

  1. Santosh Upadhyay12:08 PM

    Hi Pharma guy, a very apt post. I say this as it is relevant to the Indian context as well. Very recently we had a law passed where celebrity endorses will be accountable to the claims they make in the advertisement and would liable for a punishment, monetary or otherwise, if the claims are not justified by facts.


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