Pharmaceutical advertisers and agencies deserve better than a hyperbole-ridden panic piece about the impending demise of direct-to-consumer advertising ("Pill Chill," AA, Aug. 28). The fact that Prozac lost patent protection does not at all spell doom for DTC, but rather is just another a chapter in a continually evolving story.
DTC has always stirred controversy for any number of reasons, and many critics have predicted its downfall. While the Prozac situation may spell the end of DTC there (or may not; many consumers are brand loyal, even if they have to pay more), for each of the other patent expirations mentioned (Claritin, Prilosec and Glucophage) there is a better compound preparing right now for launch via DTC.
It's irresponsible to look at a small number of brands (four) and suggest their future represents the industry's fate. The DTC category is far more broadly represented (over 100 prescription brands ran ads last year,) and while the volume may not have been as loud, DTC was an important element of brand strategy for each of them.
Finally, DTC is continuing to evolve as a marketing tool, and louder is not always better. Many brands are succeeding with innovative campaigns, clever strategies and smart targeting. DTC has a whole lot of mileage left, both here and in the rest of the world, before its days are over.
Frank J. Hone
Exec VP-Global DTC Director
No crisis over PVRs
Re: Rance Crain's "End of mass marketing? Not yet. Back to ad basics in TiVo world" (Viewpoint, AA, Aug. 28), debunking Michael Lewis' article in The New York Times Magazine: I agree.
Mr. Lewis demonstrates a keen knowledge of the latest advances in digital TV technology. But his knowledge of the ad industry, it seems, is based on watching "Bewitched" reruns. Everyone I talk to in the business welcomes the new technology.
As Mr. Crain observes, "TiVo and Replay would give advertisers exhaustive data about demographic and buying habits of viewers, enabling advertisers to beam viewers messages that would most appeal to them."
So, what about the fact that only 12% of the commercials captured on personal digital recorders were actually watched? Fifty years ago, ad legend Howard Gossage said, "People watch what interests them. Sometimes that's advertising."
Face it. Viewers have always had the ability to skip bad commercials. Before the digital recorder, the VCR and the remote, there were two popular low-tech alternatives: the kitchen, and the bathroom.
President & Wojdyla
"Online business blooms thanks to collaboration" by Vivienne Bechtold of Procter & Gamble Co. and Mike Donahue of the American Association of Advertising Agencies (Forum, AA, Aug. 28) left me perplexed. I searched in vain for anything by way of fact or new information that might support the article's assertion that "our industry has finally gotten its collective act together to raise consumer comfort with the Internet and other technologies."
As someone who got his early business training handling Procter & Gamble businesses, I have an aversion to the unsupported assertion, and the claim with no factual backing. That's what P&G training was. The article was not from the Procter I used to know . . .
Yes, a new PC can cost less than a set of snow tires, as the authors point out. And you can buy a TV with built-in VCR for $159. Proving what? To throw the authors' own example back at them, TV took off in the early '50s because it worked and "sold boxes," to use the old P&G yard stick. The technology of the Internet is wonderful and it certainly improves my business life every day. Will it sell boxes? It will probably help if the right ways of using it can be found to work profitably. P&G can help the process by going back to the old empirical, intellectually sound methods that made them the marketing leader they were and still should be.
Brookbanks & Associates
* In "Kraft cuts trio of media partners from pitch for $800 mil account" (Sept. 11, P. 2), it was incorrectly stated that Lord Group was dropped from the Kraft Foods media review. Lord Group does not do media work for Kraft, although it has a media planning department. It does creative work for Kraft's Breyer's yogurt.
* In "Luminant pleads its case" (Sept. 11, P. 54), Maybelline 5 is a nationwide online contest to find five young women who represent the embodiment of the Maybelline message, "Maybe she's born with it, maybe it's Maybelline." The Web site address given in the story for accessing the contest was incorrect. The correct address for Maybelline's Web site is www.maybelline.com.