Friday, February 29, 2008

BrandweekNRx Off Again -- This Time for Good?

Peter Rost just announced on his Question Authority blog:

"After having been started in April 2007, BrandweekNRX was taken off the air in December, and brought back for the months of January and February this year.

Unfortunately, money is tight over at Brandweek, and advertising on Internet sites such a BrandweekNRX is hard to come by . . . so, for now, BrandweekNRX is closing down again.

Meanwhile, you will find my occasional musings over here at Question Authority"
Too bad, Peter.

But I've just about had it with BrandweekNRx and will take it off my blogroll for good. It's just too much work keeping up with it all!

Jarvik's Married to a Genius!

A commenter to my previous post ("Dear Doctor Jarvik: Are You G**?") pointed out that Jarvik is married to Marilyn vos Savant (shown below on her non-exercise bike). She's a keeper and not an IDIOT SAVANT!

I don't know if this proves if Jarvik is gay or not, but he's risen a notch higher on my esteem-o-meter!


I found the following information about Marilyn over at marilynvossavant.com (she and BOTH her children work at Jarvik Heart; interesting that Jarvik was also able to get his son to appear in a Lipitor commercial):
Marilyn vos Savant is a national columnist and author. She is an executive at Jarvik Heart, Inc., which manufactures artificial hearts for permanent and temporary use in the treatment of heart failure. The company can be visited at www.jarvikheart.com.

Marilyn was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for five years under "Highest IQ" for both childhood and adult scores. She has since been inducted into the *Guinness Hall of Fame*. Marilyn was named by Toastmasters International as the #1 most popular communicator/speaker in the educational and social category.

She was named one of fifty “Women of the New Millennium” by the White House Vital Voices: Women in Democracy campaign. She was a winner of a “Women Making History” award from the National Women’s History Museum. Marilyn is the recipient of honorary Doctorates of Letters.

Since 1986, Marilyn has been writing the "Ask Marilyn" question-and-answer column for Parade, the Sunday magazine distributed by 379 newspapers, with a circulation of 34 million and a readership of 79 million, the largest periodical in the world. Questions from readers range from philosophical to mathematical to "just plain nuts," as Marilyn puts it. Her most recent books are Growing Up: A Classic American Childhood and The Art of Spelling, both published by W.W. Norton.

Marilyn was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Mary vos Savant and Joseph Mach. She was the granddaughter of Mary Savant and Joseph vos Savant, and of Anna Moravec and Anton Mach.

Marilyn is married to Robert Jarvik MD, the inventor of the Jarvik 7 and Jarvik 2000 artificial hearts. They have two children, Mary and Dennis, both of whom also work at Jarvik Heart. All reside in Manhattan within a few blocks of each other, along with Mary's husband David and their two young daughters Valerie and Michelle.

Note an interesting factoid about vos Savant: she works for Parade magazine, which makes lots of dough from DTC advertising. Parade also famously sponsors DTC Perspectives annual DTC awards! Small world!

Dear Doctor Jarvik: Are You G**?

[WARNING. THE FOLLOWING POST MAY CONTAIN POLITICALLY-INCORRECT INNUENDOS. IF THIS OFFENDS YOU, PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS POST.]

Are you gay?

Forgive me for asking this doctor, but I have been getting a lot of flack over at Pharma Marketing Blog after I suggested you might be gay (see "Jarvik: A Modern DTC Tragedy").

Actually, I first suggested you were a "fop," which I guess is an old fashioned term for gay male person. See my post "Lipitor's Jarvik: Fop or Flop?"

We all know you are a “flop” – at least as far as being the Lipitor spokesperson is concerned, although Pfizer sold $billions and $billion worth of Lipitor while you worked for them for a mere $1.35 million, which is a pretty good return on their investment when all is said and done.

When I predicted you’d be a flop I never thought it would be because you are not a licensed physician or can’t row. I thought you’d flop because you were gay and that image for a cardiovascular drug brand would not resonate with consumers like me – older men who are homophobic.

Yes, I admit it. I am a homophobe. Well, at least when it comes to choosing a cardiologist. I also don’t like getting massages from men.

What I didn’t realize, however, was that there is an equal number of people out there who are not men – they’re called women, many of whom like to hang with gay men (I am told; you know – like “Will and Grace”). Maybe, your soft “boyish” looks and gentle voice works well with women, more of whom should be taking Lipitor but don’t because the medical profession is too focused on men when it comes to cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment.

You’ll notice, doctor Jarvik, that I just used the word “boyish” to describe you. I hope that doesn’t offend you. I picked it up from a 1986 Playboy article I just read over at PharmaGossip. The author of that article described you as “small and thin, with boyish good looks.” You were 39 then, so you must be about 61 now. May I say that you look marvelous, simply marvelous! And we all know that when we look good, we feel good.

Truthfully, I was perusing that Playboy article to see if there was any hint that the author thought you were gay. I managed to come up with these curious insights into your sexuality:

  • According to the author, you like ties that are “lavender or lilac, sometimes shiny, sometimes almost--I don't know--punk.” I’m not sure what “punk” was code for in 1986, but the lavender/purple tie you wore in the first Lipitor commercial you were in was what caught my attention and inspired me to label you a fop; I also thought it was a branding faus pas considering that lavender/purple is the Nexium brand color whereas tried-and-true (and non-gay might I add) blue is the Lipitor brand color;
  • You also own a “a lightweight pink racing bicycle,” which the author saw in your study; add to this the baby blue (not a manly dark or navy blue) running shoes you had neatly lined up in one of your more recent Lipitor commercials and one would have to conclude that you have a decidedly gay color preference;
  • You spent a lot of time designing a dildo with a unicorn on the end;
  • A guest at a dinner you were at said to the author: "I don't trust men who like unicorns."; "Yeah," the author said, "but what about men who like dildos?", which I interpreted to mean “only gay men like dildos”;
  • As far as liking unicorns goes, you decided to prove you didn’t like unicorns by redesigning the dildo so it looked more like an antelope and you made a big deal out of it;
  • You have a “high-pitched giggle” and are known to giggle “like a teenager” in front of women;
  • You asked the author if he could procure an “interesting lady who might like to accompany” you to dinner; there was a mysterious lady that supposedly canceled on you at the last minute, but no-one had seen her; I dunno, if it were me, I’d just ask if my friend could set me up with a prostitute, not a “lady;”
  • You gave the author – who is a guy – a T-shirt with a heart on it and then giggled and said: "Look, he's got a heart-on."
  • You were divorced in 1985 and never re-married.
All this is circumstantial, I know. But it could suggest that you are gay, wouldn’t you agree?

The answer to the question of whether or not you are gay is extremely important to me. As I said, many people are giving me flack over at my other blog for these innuendos I am spreading. Comments like:
“I'm disappointed that you felt the need to bring up questions about Jarvik's sexuality. How is that at all relevant? The only thing that reveals is your own homophobia…”
and
“I felt deceived reading your post. Here I was, expecting some insight into the heart of the matter, and instead I wound up reading the hateful words of a guy who clearly has some kind of homophobia issues…I'll never read your blog again.”
Of course, I feel a little vindicated now that other bloggers (Peter Rost over a BrandweekNRx and Jack Friday over at PharmaGossip) have “outed” the Playboy story, which clearly focuses on your sexuality and leaves it open as to whether you are gay or not.

It appears that this story will continue to morph and circle ever tighter around the true nature of your sexuality. So, to put an end to this speculation once and for all, please tell me if you are gay or not.

Sincerely yours,

John Mack

Monday, February 25, 2008

Truelove, Explain This Please!

I am insulted!

Christina Truelove's "Pharma Blogs: Week in Review" is a great weekly personal view of the Pharma BlogosphereTM. I read it religiously every week.

But the advertising for it on the PharmaLive site includes a tag line that, unlike the tagline for sale over at BrandweekNRx, stinks!

"We monitor pharma blogs so you don't have to..." ??????

Truelove, you got some 'splaining to do!

First, what about all the RSS technology out there that allows anyone to set up their own monitoring of blogs? If we don't encourage our readers to do this, then shame on us!

Second, the Pharma Blogs: Week in Review is sometimes AWOL as it was last Friday. I know, I know. There was a snow storm! All the more reason to utilize RSS and other technology.

Third, this is a personal compilation and not a comprehensive review.

So, I suggest that you change this tagline to something like: "We monitor blogs and report what strikes us as interesting..."

I'm being a little flippant, of course. But let me also offer some constructive criticism:

No matter what the tagline, Pharma Blogs: Week in Review should come out no later than Friday morning. This works, for example, for Bob Ehrlich's DTC in Perspective. Otherwise, many people are not going to open the email. That also would make it much more useful to us bloggers who are mentioned in the newsletter -- we can get more lift in terms of visitors.

Anyway, just my humble opinion and venting of feelings!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

PharmaPorning and TagLineShilling

Want to increase your blog traffic by 50%? That's the result Insider -- aka Jack Friday -- at PharmaGossip saw after he posted a link to the nude photo of Playboy model and Sanofi drug rep Cameron Haven doing her dirty laundry in Florida.

Of course, I was one of those men -- and probably a few women -- who dutifully exited the PharmaGossip site within a millisecond and followed the link to the XXX-rated photo on a Playboy site.

The non-XXX rated photo posted to PharmaGossip is shown on the left. "Much, much more of Cameron doing her laundry can be seen here!", said Insider.

I followed the link and I kept THAT page open for a few hours during the day. Now THAT'S what I call a "sticky" site; PharmaGossip, not so much.

Insider considered this such a boost that he posted some more links to photos of the model/cum sales rep. But this latest batch took too long to load to satisfy my need for instant gratification.

Of course, he who lives in glass houses should not throw rocks. I have posted on Pharma Marketing Blog images of women sales reps who are also models or cheerleaders (see "Sexy Reps Sell Rx") and have even shown bare breasts once or twice. Of course, I have also balanced that with images of men and penises (see "Pfizer's Erection Hardness Meter" and "Introducing...the All-Pharma Lobbying Lineup!"). Aside from the penis image, however, none could be said to be rated XXX. Also, I only use these images to make a serious point about pharmaceutical marketing, not just to appeal to my readers' prurient interests.

On another issue, I notice that Peter Rost over at BrandweekNRx and its mirror blog Question Authority has started shilling sponsors' wares by writing whole posts devoted to sales pitches. See, for example, "Buy an amazing tagline - Where Good Health is a Click Away."

"'Where Good Health is a Click Away' is an exceptionally solid, timeless, powerful and elegant tagline," said Rost. "If you are a worthy individual or company, a true fit for this tagline and have the big bucks to buy it, then don't delay!"

Peter, as always, is breaking new ground and paving the way for us bloggers to make more profits!

Now we all have to make a living and many of us bloggers run ads on our blogs and even "feature" our advertisers in blog posts and get paid to do it. Rost, at least, has been upfront about the fact that the tag line owner, Robert Goldman of Portland, Maine is "the current BrandweekNRx blog sponsor."

But this is the first time I've seen an editor of a blog actually personally endorse a sponsor's product in the editorial section of a blog, which is something that I try to avoid doing.

I suspect that Peter is under extraordinary pressure from Brandweek to show some return on investment. Recall back in January 2007 that Todd Wasserman, BrandWeek’s editor said of Peter: "We let him go in December because of lack of advertising, but are bringing him back in January even (though) we don't have ads to support him - yet" (see "Riddarhuseter Rost Re-establishes Roost at Brandweek's NRx").

I don't know if the "tagline for sale" post will convince Wasserman to keep Rost or not. Probably, he'll have to see several other such posts and a positive measurable payoff to make his decision.

I wonder how much it cost to be a sponsor of BrandweekNRx and get my own endorsement from Peter? Should I pay anything? After all, Peter has often said good things (and not so good things) about me and I have reciprocated. But to pay him to say ONLY good things about me and urge people to buy my stuff would give me such a sense of POWER OVER PETER that I am very tempted to try it! (Hey, numnuts! Just kiddin'!)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pharma Would Rather Fight Than Switch, When It Comes to DTC

This morning, I was greeted by email from Bob Ehrlich, chairman of DTC Perspectives, who made some predictions about what would happen to broadcast DTC if McCain or Obama were elected president.

But Ehrlich didn't venture to predict what might happen to broadcast DTC if McCain won; he focused mostly on an Obama president scenario. You can read about Ehrlich's predictions in this post to the WSJ Health Blog.

The pharmaceutical industry will circle its wagons and do everything possible to prevent McCain or Obama from messing with TV DTC. They may even hire new lobbyists -- perhaps McCain's lobbyist "friend" Vicki Iseman (pictured above) will make herself available. Maybe she already has PhRMA as a client!

Read more about the switching alternative here and here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Pens for Brains

Those pens that pharmaceutical sales reps hand out to physicians are often cited as examples of gifts to physicians that are meant to increase physician loyalty to the drug brand that made the gift.

Do pens work?

This advertiser in Pharmaceutical Executive Magazine thinks so.

How many physicians' brains need to be influenced by pens in order to make an investment in free pens for docs yield a positive return on investment (ROI)?

For the answer, see this post to Pharma Marketing Blog.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Is Marketing a Science or an Art?

Let's face it. Marketers are not daVinci's, by which I mean they are not good at combining art and science.

Despite all the talk these days about ROI this and ROI that, marketing remains aloof from attempts to measure its effects.

In fact, many marketers keep soldiering on with ridiculous ad campaigns even when they are clearly in negative ROI territory. See, for example, "Rozerem Ad Spending Exceeds Sales!"

I have to admit to getting sleepy when true ROI experts begin speaking of their craft. If you are up to it, give a listen to my podcast interview of Andree Bates ("You Want Marketing ROI? You're Not Ready to Measure ROI!"). To be fair, this is an audio-only podcast that would have benefited greatly from the excellent slides Dr. Bates had.

But I have a predicament and it's this: I am presenting a keynote speech on this topic at the Measuring Marketing ROI conference in London next month and I have an outline but need to fill in the details.

Can you hep? See the post "Are Marketers Artists or Mathematicians?" on Pharma Marketing Blog for details.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Stand Up for CafePharma's Right to Say "Piss Off!"

CafePharma faces a dilemma: should it hand over names of anonymous posters to the House Committee on Commerce, which requested these names as part of its investigation of "who knew what when" in the ENHANCE investigation? Or should CafePharma tell the committee to "piss off!"?

The Committee sent a letter to Sarah Palmer, CafePharma's Webmaster/mistress, and her ISP asking for the names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and Internet protocol addresses of anyone creating posts prior to January 18, 2008 regarding the ENHANCE clinical trial.

It also requested that CafePharma "not destroy, dispose of, or tamper with any files or records relating to Merck/Schering-Plough and the ENHANCE study."

I am not sure what legal rights CafePharma has to refuse to comply, but this request is a serious issue for CafePharma and other "social network" Web sites whose members depend upon the owners to protect their anonymity in the exercise of their free speech rights.

I am not telling CafePharma what to do, but I think anyone who owns a blog or social network that publishes "anonymous" comments should speak up against this request. It's one thing if the information was required for national security or if the postings were death threats, but it's quite another when we are talking about insider trading.

I propose that the Pharma Blogosphere community draft a letter to John Dingell, Chairman of the House Committee on Commerce, protesting the committee's request and defending the right of CafePharma to refuse to hand over private information about its members. Please join the discussion on the Pharma Marketing Network Forum I set up to get some input in creating this letter. Or send me an email: johnmack@virsci.com

Friday, February 8, 2008

This Just In: Jarvik's No Jogger Either!

"He can't row," said Dr. O. H. Frazier of the Texas Heart Institute of Dr. Jarvik, Pfizer's Lipitor celebrity spokesperson. And Dr. Frazier should know -- he's a "longtime collaborator" of Jarvik's, according to a NY Times article published yesterday. Turns out a stunt double was used (see "Jarvik Can't Prescribe and Can't Row a Boat, But Can He Sell?" and here).

This blogger just learned through another source that the TV ads showing Jarvik running with his son also used stunt doubles for both Jarviks!

Edward Kanston, a long-time jogger from Skokie, IL, who has a receding hairline and otherwise long-flowing gray hair, did the jogging for the elder Jarvik.

A stunt robot with defective arms was used to portray his son. "I think he passed it [foppy mannerism] on to his son as well," says anonymous in a comment to a previous post. "Watch the way the son runs during the commercials. Who runs like that? He looks like the lady on the Seinfeld episode who doesn't swing her arms when she walks!" Who runs like that? A robot with defective arms (think Bender, the robot in Futurama), that's who!

Want further proof that Jarvik can't jog? "The House committee is also believed to be interested in determining whether doubles for Dr. Jarvik were used in other ads," reported the NY Times. "Other ads" meaning other than the rowing ads. The jogging ad is the only one in which a double could possibly be used.

Stunt Double VoiceOver!
Stay tuned to the next Jarvik expose: The ghost of Paul Winchell, the famous ventriloquist who died in 2005, was employed by the Lipitor ad agency to do voiceovers for Dr. Jarvik! You heard it here first!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

'Round the Sphere: Motivational Deficiency Disorder Strikes Again!

I've just returned from a few days vacation on the beach in Sunny Isles, Florida and I haven't yet recovered from the Motivational Deficiency Disorder (MDD) symptoms that resulted!

If you haven't heard about MDD, you can read about it on the WSJ Health Blog and Pharmalot.

Of course, MDD is a made-up disease and the butt of a spoof video produced by and organization called Consumers International (CI).

This isn't the first time CI produced a MDD video spoof. But there seems to be a rash of videos making fun of pharma marketing knocking around the Pharma Blogosphere these days. Is there a connection between them all?

To find out, you might want to read the post "Making Fun of Pharma Marketing is Easy" over at Pharma Marketing Blog.

P.S. CI also hosts the Marketing Overdose Blog, which CI says is devoted to "Campaigning against irresponsible drug promotion." I'd say they are campaigning against ALL drug promotion!