The same way they do to vote for a favorite singer on “The Voice,” consumers can now text Pfizer for a discount on erectile dysfunction drug Viagra. In what seems to be a first for a pharma company, Pfizer’s new TV commercial for Viagra encourages patients to text a keyword from their mobile phones to receive special discounts.
In typical Viagra direct-marketing style, it’s not a soft-sell message tacked on at the end of the ad. The ad opens with the now-familiar woman in a dark blue dress who asks, “Guys, want to save 50% on a yearlong supply of Viagra for ED?” A mobile phone close-up then takes over the screen with the promotion and text keyword “VSAVE,” and she explains in voice-over how to get the discount.
Pfizer declined to comment on the promotion, with a spokesman citing, via email, “a policy against sharing competitive information.”
Text promotions like this one are common in the consumer products world, particularly among retailers looking to attract new customers while also building a database of consumers to target for more marketing messages. When people text to save, they almost always have to agree to an opt-in program that also usually means more messages coming.
In the case of Viagra, texting the savings code results in a message that requires consumers to first reply “Yes” to opt into the program and agree to “terms and complete enrollment.” After replying “Yes,” Pfizer sends an eCard that patients who have a Viagra prescription from their doctor can show at the pharmacy to get the discount.
Along with the eCard, though, patients are agreeing to terms that include receiving an average of five text messages from Pfizer per month. The terms also give permission for data collection that could include patients' names, phone numbers, birthdates, pharmacy information and prescribing doctor information. The information may then be used to “administer this program and to provide program benefits such as savings offers, information about your prescription, refill reminders, new prescription requests, as well as program updates and alerts sent directly to your device.”
The information collected is the same as any other offline copay or discount program collects, of course. And users can unsubscribe and halt the messages by texting “Stop” to the same number at any time.
Viagra’s patent doesn’t expire in the U.S. for several more years, but Pfizer has struck agreements with both Mylan and Teva for each to start selling their generic versions at the end of this year.