Donna Campanella

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As the internet boomed in the late 1990s, so did direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising, which entered a phenomenal growth spurt in 1998 after the government loosened the reins on broadcast advertising.

The opportunity to become an early leader in the DTC revolution appealed to Donna Campanella as she watched the movement unfold that year from her post as media director at Sony Electronics. In January 1999, she joined Pfizer and began crafting both the physical-Pfizer's first consumer media unit; and the philosophical-a company approach on how to use the fledgling DTC medium.

"I had worked on every type of account imaginable," says Ms. Campanella, who logged time on the agency side before moving to Sony. "It was really a great opportunity to almost define what we as a company should be doing, because most of the people who had grown up in the pharmaceutical business did not know a lot about consumer advertising."

"She's very creative, and she knows her business very well," says Joe Abruzzese, president of advertising sales at Viacom's CBS Television Network.

Pfizer and its fortysomething media director now are regarded as being in the front tier in DTC. Pfizer has used consumer ads to drive sales of drugs ranging from Aricept to Zyrtec. Pfizer has become a major player in the annual TV upfront season. And it has put forth a case study on successful DTC brand building through its marketing of Viagra.

Largely through DTC, Pfizer has turned the blue pill into a blue-chip brand name and repositioned the condition known as impotence as the more pleasant sounding "erectile dysfunction," facilitating conversations between patients and doctors. The Viagra name can be seen on a Nascar race car and on signs behind Major League Baseball players.

"When you think of a P&G and what they're doing on a brand like Pampers or any of their detergents, we are where they are," Ms. Campanella says.

The importance of DTC at Pfizer was one reason why there was so much at stake in Pfizer's $700 million-plus review that ended in February to consolidate its media buying and planning with that of Warner-Lambert Co., which it acquired in 2000. For six months, Pfizer shop Carat USA and Warner-Lambert agency Mind

Share, both New York, pitched and pitched again and waited and waited, as executives from each company wanted their agency to win out.

In the end, Aegis Group's Carat, perhaps because it had won the hearts of Pfizer executives and the company was the purchaser, not the purchasee, prevailed over WPP Group's MindShare.

Like so much else in the DTC arena, the decision bore the ink of Ms. Campanella's leadership stamp.

Carat's "philosophy in how they work is very much in line with the Pfizer philosophy," she says.

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