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Pharma’s Charm Offensive
Last summer, an article appeared in my firm Envision Solutions’ quarterly newsletter focusing on pharma’s image problem.  One key feature of the article was an online poll of 20 communicators, industry executives and others.  These individuals suggested that drug companies should begin proactively communicating to the public in order to change public perceptions of the industry.  What should pharma firms communicate?  They said:

- Put a human face on the industry by telling the personal stories of pharma company employees

- Reassure the public on drug safety

- Place drug pricing into context

- Communicate efforts to balance profit and human need

For a while, it appeared that the industry was not doing much to proactively communicate with the public.  Today, that appears to be changing.  

Starting With Television Spots . . .

In January, industry trade group PhRMA began airing commercials featuring talk show host Montel Williams. In the advertisements Williams touts the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), a patient assistance program the pharmaceutical industry launched in April 2005.
In addition to airing spots for PPA, a number of drug companies, including Pfizer have aired commercials focusing on their scientific mission and quest to help patients.  

. . . Moving To Magazines & The Internet

Observant readers of major magazines like BusinessWeek, the New Yorker and TIME  may have noticed that advertising for prescription medications has exploded in the past year.  Drug makers have upped their spending on direct-to-consumer advertising and are pouring a lot of money into magazines.  Industry experts have said that pharma is advertising in magazines because it is easier to provide consumers with educational messages and adverse event information in print commercials.  

However, companies have not just been spending money touting drugs.  Firms like Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb and AstraZeneca have launched advertising campaigns that portray the companies as public health champions.  

Some firms have also been using the Internet to get their messages out.  For example, Pfizer and Merck have been posting banner advertisements on popular search engines and other sites in order to drive people to their corporate Websites.  

Following are a few examples of these campaigns.

Pfizer: Working For A Healthier World

Pfizer’s campaign focuses on what the company is doing to “help build a healthier world,” from developing personalized medical solutions to disease management programs.

AstraZeneca: Healthcare For People, Imagine That

AstraZeneca’s commercials focus on what it is doing to help treat individual patients.  The company says that it is “putting the personal touch back in healthcare.”

Bristol Myers Squibb: Together We Can Prevail

One of BMS’ commercials features a cancer survivor, Sharon Blynn, who founded “Bald is Beautiful,” a cancer advocacy organization.  BMS is using the commercials to talk about its commitment to fighting “serious diseases.”  Lance Armstrong is also particpating in the campaign.

Merck: Where Patients Come First

Merck’s advertisements tout its history providing patients with valuable medical knowledge via the Merck Manual.  Merck also asks people to visit its Website, Your Health Now, which features healthcare content, including podcasts.  

Is It Working?

Pharma’s efforts to sway public opinion may be working.  According to an Ernst & Young poll, perceptions of the industry are improving, partly because of its marketing efforts.  

However, public opinion of the industry is still largely negative and with a new Congress taking aim at the industry, look its charm offensive to intensify.  

3 Comments/Trackbacks

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It is about time people start trusting the pharmacy industry.

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