In three spots breaking this week in a Raleigh/Durham, N.C., test, CVS shows consumers the problems of dealing with online pharmacies while promoting its own online site (www.cvs.com) as well as its retail stores.
In one spot, warehouse workers are stumped by a prescription order, prompting the voice-over question of whether "a pharmacy belongs in a pharmacy."
A second spot shows a man speaking to a customer on the phone, but he is distracted by magazine ad for a red sports car. A desk calendar marking an impending IPO also is visible. The voice-over states, "A pharmacy shouldn't be some get-rich-quick scheme."
A third spot spoofs huge Web sites that try to offer all products from software to flowers and from toasters to prescription drugs.
DIG AT DRUGSTORE.COM
The spots could be seen as a dig at online category leader Drugstore.com, which is partly owned by Amazon.com and CVS rival Rite-Aid Corp.
Spots are tagged "America's No. 1 pharmacy. Online."
Spending on the test effort, which includes radio, is estimated in the $2 million range, with a national rollout estimated in the $25 million range annually, starting in the first quarter of 2000.
"The CVS campaign marks a pendulum swing," said Rob Bagot, group creative director at agency Goldberg Moser O'Neill, San Francisco. "People find a lot of comfort in a bricks-and-mortar store."
Gaynor Strachan Chun, VP-account director at Goldberg, said research found that "trust is the biggest issue" consumers had with ordering prescriptions over the Web. "Consumers told us it was fine to buy a CD over the Web, but I don't swallow CDs," she said.
CVS, with more than 4,000 stores primarily in the East and Midwest, acquired pharmacy start-up Soma.com for a reported $30 million this spring and turned it into CVS.com. The pharmacy attempts to emphasize the synergy of its retail stores with its online operations by allowing customers to order prescriptions online and receive them via mail or pick them up at a neighborhood drugstore.
As added amenities, the site offers 24-hour access to registered pharmacists by phone or e-mail. It also has a drug interaction database and information on health conditions and issues.
CVS is taking the action to preserve its share of the $150 billion prescription drug market amid the influx of competition from dot-com start-ups such as Drugstore.com, PlanetRx and more.com.
A rival retail drugstore, Walgreen Co., also has beefed up its online offerings, selling prescriptions online and more recently signing up with the Mayo Clinic for an online library.