Pharma Marketing Is Embarrassing

It's Grotesque and -- Just as Bad -- Lacking in Creativity

By Published on .

Marc Brownstein Marc Brownstein
If Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno and David Letterman consistently get their comedic material from today's pharmaceutical commercials, something is wrong. We all know the spots I'm referring to -- the ones about leaky bowels, frequent urination, erection problems, to name just a few. They've been the target of jokes for years, but their frequency and blunt approach are on the rise.

Do we really need to see and hear this stuff night after night, especially with our kids sitting and watching TV with us? I feel like I'm in a health/sexual education class. And it's made worse now that so many national advertisers (such as auto manufacturers) are off of the air because of reduced ad budgets. So we see these 60- and sometimes 90-second spots repeated even more.

I propose two things:

  1. That the agencies who create this stuff cut the rest of us a break. We don't need to hear the gory details about America's bodily malfunctions. People can save that for the privacy of their doctor's visit. Push back on your clients, and let them know you're making consumers nauseated instead of better. Better yet, read your storyboards to your young children before presenting them to your client; then see how well that goes over.

  2. Inject some innovation into these spots. I'm no pharma marketing expert, but I do know they are heavily regulated. Does that mean creativity has to be regulated out of the concepts, too? C'mon, if your colleagues in the industry are having a hard time watching these spots, imagine how the rest of America feels.

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