The things that made the new Dexcom commercial stand out—Super Bowl airing, star power with singer Nick Jonas, slick computer graphics—are also the reasons it's problematic for some people with Type 1 diabetes.
The ad features Jonas, the musician and actor living with Type 1 diabetes, as a “Dexcom Warrior” looking young and healthy like the millennial heartthrob he is. He stands in a futuristic all-white setting talking about advances in technology like special effects, package-delivering drones, self-driving cars and visits to Mars. He says, "And people with diabetes are still pricking their fingers? What?"
Viewers took to social media to both praise the visibility for Type 1 diabetes and complain about the pricey ad. There was so much social buzz, in fact, that "Nick Jonas" became a trending topics on Twitter after the ad aired.
However, the $5.5 million price tag for a 30-second Super Bowl slot, plus the cost to pay an A-lister like Jonas, didn't sit well with some people.
The negative complaints weren't about the Dexcom product—although there were some grumbles about features not working on personal devices. People focused more on the fact that, while the product is great, it's prohibitively expensive for many people with diabetes, even with insurance.
As one woman with Type 1 diabetes, who blogs about the disease, noted on Twitter: "Millions of people will see a Super Bowl ad later today spotlighting the need for continuous glucose monitoring (cgm) access for people with diabetes. Let’s not forget that many of those same people cannot afford said technology, nor their insulin, in the United States."
Others questioned whether the company needed Super Bowl promotion exposure, arguing that many people with diabetes know about the product, they just can't afford it.
Still, many others loved the representation for people with diabetes and push for awareness. The cool factor of Jonas as the face of the product, and, in a way, the disease itself, was both emotional and uplifting for many, especially young people with Type 1 diabetes.
“We are very excited to partner with Nick to shed light on technology that we know can significantly improve the lives of people with diabetes,” Chad Patterson, senior vice president of global marketing for Dexcom, said in a press release before the game.
After the Super Bowl and social media commentary, a spokesperson for Dexcom acknowledged the controversy, but emphasized that “raising awareness is a critical component of the fight to improve access and reimbursement, so running an ad during the Super Bowl is one of the most impactful ways to support and energize our ongoing efforts to make CGM accessible to everyone who can benefit from it.”
The company also stressed that it is working with both government and private insurers to expand the coverage for the product. In addition, Dexcom launched an assistance program for those who have lost their health insurance coverage due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the Super Bowl ad was a first for both Dexcom and Jonas, this isn’t their first time working together. Jonas, who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 13, first partnered with the company in 2015 to raise awareness of the disease.