Pfizer figures traditional drug promos are getting old

No question that the viewing public has grown cynical about drug advertising. Who hasn't mocked the stock-in-trade DTC ad? Its smiling patients and grinning animated figures, backed up by a litany of FDA-mandated side-effects disclosures, practically beg for it. Drug-ad spoofs are so common on Saturday Night Live that YouTube videos now spoof the spoofs.

So, what's a drugmaker to do? Pfizer ($PFE) is trying a little tough love. The drugmaker's new "Get Old" campaign turns traditional promotion on its head, asking patients to express their frank thoughts about aging. Even the name of the campaign is a departure. Get Old? In a society that tries to deny that we do?

As EVP Sally Susman tells AdWeek, she and her team, including the SS+K agency, deliberately avoided soft-pedaling the idea. Colleagues suggested easier-to-swallow language like "live longer" or "getting older while being healthy," Susman says. But she felt that Pfizer needed to show it would take the conversation seriously, "not [cover] it in flowers and butterflies."

At this point, the site revolves around personal statements about aging, submitted by visitors. There's no product push. Eventually, the company plans to mine the public comments to determine how Pfizer can talk back. "What are we really hearing? What do the communities want from us in terms of information, support, or resources," Susman tells AdWeek. "Take the time to respond in a really thoughtful and meaningful way."

- read the AdWeek piece

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