Free media hype helps Viagra's Australian launch

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SYDNEY -- Australian media outlets showered the new erectile wonder drug Viagra with $14 million worth of free publicity in the six month lead-up to its September launch.

But what impact the avalanche of hype has had on sales is yet to be determined. Viagra Brand Manager James Price says Australian demand had not been as strong as in the U.S. "Patients haven't rushed into pharmacies like they did in the U.S., but we're very happy with the factory sales we've had to pharma cies," Mr. Price said, adding that Australian consumer sales data was still a month away from being released.

New research released at the Australian Marketing Institute's National Conference at Sydney's Star City this week revealed Viagra was the subject of 1,575 print stories, 346 television news spots and 2,191 radio news items over a six month period. Usually such medical product launches generate between 20 and 60 news items in the Australian media.

Sydney's Total Advertising and Communications director Barry O'Brien estimated the value of the publicity in advertising terms was $14 million. Not bad for a company which spent an estimated $150,000 on marketing the launch of the drug in Australia with advertisements in medical magazines and mail outs to doctors.

In marketing terms, Viagra ranks higher than Windows 95 as the most-hyped new product to launch in Australia this decade. Windows 95 media coverage peaked in its first week when the launch generated 108 minutes of prime time news coverage and 700 print articles with a combined value of $2.7 million.

Copyright October 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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