New Pfizer campaign has scientists stand up for the long and winding R&D road

Pfizer scientists are speaking up. For drug discovery and development, for patients, and for pharma’s reputation.

Pfizer’s ad campaign “Driven to Discover the Cure” tells the pharma company’s behind-the-scenes story of the complex and expensive research for drugs, along with the happy results for some patients.

A new TV spot chronicles the drug journey from idea to treatment, featuring 5 real Pfizer scientists along the way. The :60 spot begins with a patient (an actor) reaching into his bathroom medicine cabinet for a pill.

The narration details the life of a drug using Pfizer ($PFE) averages--not any specific drug results--such as 87 different protein structures examined, 12 years of setbacks and breakthroughs, and 36 clinical trials, to make its point. The TV spot ends with the actor picking up his child, while the voiceover says, “And so after it became a medicine, someone who couldn’t be cured, could be. Me.”

A Pfizer spokeswoman said via email, “Our hope is that if more people understand what it takes to bring a new medicine to patients, that together we can create a better environment for discovering treatments today and in the future.”

The campaign includes print and digital ads that bowed in March. Along with the new TV work, new video and social content has made a debut, including a microdocumentary featuring a meeting between Pfizer’s oncology R&D chief and a lung cancer patient.

Using scientists is a tried-and-true approach for pharma companies to humanize what they do and create empathy. Other industries have used employees in their ads, sometimes as a tactic in crisis communications; remember the BP employees who stood up in its ads after the Gulf oil well crisis? Pizza Hut and Domino’s have made similar ads.

And pharma is definitely in crisis, thanks to politicians’ pre-election bashing, increasing drug cost criticisms and M&As gone awry.

Pfizer, like other drug companies and brands, pays attention to its reputation, and this is likely one of its responses to the current climate, reminding consumers and doctors about its hard-working employees and hard-won drug developments.

One of the Pfizer scientists in the ad, Casey Quinlan, a biochemist who works in the early discovery stages of new cancer medicines, wrote via email about her job, “When you work on the minutia, it’s easy to forget that you’re part of the greater scientific and medical discourse, but at Pfizer we never forget that. We are all part of a large collaborative effort working toward cancer medicines for patients, and that is part of our daily mission.”

- here's the ad

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