|Consumers can stretch their erectile enhancement budgets with Pfizer's get-one-free Viagra Value Card.
The pharmaceutical company last week introduced the Value Card. For every six prescriptions of Viagra purchased, the seventh is free. It is believed to be the first program of its kind in the pharmaceutical industry, particularly for prescription medication.
Like frequent-flier miles
"We're looking at ways to build long-term relationships with our patients," said Janice Lipsky, U.S. marketing director for Viagra. "When we looked at our relationship marketing, something that was tested was a frequent flier-like or membership-type program. It was well-received, to say the least."
One ad agency president with several creative pharmaceutical accounts was floored. "When I first heard about it, I was like 'Wow, this is really innovative,' " he said. "I suspect you're going to see a lot of copycatting on this."
Another pharmaceutical marketing executive from a Pfizer rival said: "It's a novel concept. Frankly, it's something you see more with packaged goods."
Not a general drug trend
CommonHealth, said this type of idea might only be applicable in the pharmaceutical industry to lifestyle or symptomatic medications.
"Viagra is a lifestyle drug and there's more latitude there," Ms. Barlow said. "But there has to be some sensitivity for a person's condition and an understanding of the emotional needs that go with that. You're just not going to see a promotion that says 'Get six cancer shots and the seventh one is free.' "
Consumer savings programs for individual pharmaceutical brands are rare. GlaxoSmithKline's prescription medication Flonase offers an Allergy Rewards Program; those who enroll receive $5 vouchers good toward a Flonase prescription (up to 12 in a 12-month period), but few others exist.
40% of men
The Value Card for Viagra is aimed at the 40% of men who pay for their entire prescription or part of their prescription not covered by insurance. The program is ongoing in that men can receive a free prescription after every six paid prescriptions, not just the first six. Viagra's competitors -- Levitra, from Bayer and GlaxoSmithKline, and Cialis, a joint venture from Eli Lilly and ICOS -- say they do not plan similar programs. Both are currently offering free trials.
Viagra had the ED category all to itself for five years before the two competitors entered the market last year. Ms. Lipsky said the Value Card was not a response to the rivals.
"Frankly, I wish we had the idea for the Value Card three years ago but, no, it's not a reactive program," she said. "It's been in the works for the last year or so as one way to create a better relationship with our customers."
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Lisa Sanders contributed to this report.