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Thursday, Jun. 21, 2007 at 10:33 am

Isn’t “alli” Why People Hate Marketers?

By Robert Gorell
June 21st, 2007

Any marketers out there ever feel like non-business folk’s knee-jerk contempt for your profession rivals that of ambulance-chasing attorneys?*

This prejudice, although generic, is understandable. And, by the way, show me an attorney who defends her trade as much as her clients and I’ll show you the reason lawyer jokes were invented.

click meI love the art of marketing but, like anyone else, I loath artifice…

So, here’s an idea: don’t market vanity products that result in “oily discharge.” It’s just not a good long-term strategy. (If you’re already offended, you probably shouldn’t read this Wired post about the new diet pill “alli.” And, whatever you do, don’t read this funny-yet-profane rant about the drug’s marketing spin, which I found at the very top of yesterday. How’s that for word-of-mouth?)

As you can see, saying “it’s not for everybody” doesn’t suffice–especially when “not for everybody” really means “. . . it’s probably a smart idea to wear dark pants, and bring a change of clothes with you to work.Oops!

Far beyond the fact that the FDA approved Alli (aka “Orlistat“) for over-the-counter use–thanks, drug lobbyists–isn’t it a drug maker’s responsibility to make it perfectly clear that treatments like this are extreme?

click meSure, the big drug companies are an easier target than even the marketers and attorneys who enable them. But, without them, there’s no innovation. And for every Vioxx lawsuit, there’s a story about a new drug that saves lives. For instance, compare GlaxoSmithKline’s advertisement for Alli with this honest commercial for Merck’s HPV-preventing cervical cancer drug (thanks to DDB).

David Ogilvy wrote Confessions of an Advertising Man back in 1963, and what offends me–not quite as much as those who think “oily discharge” is fair trade for weight-loss–is when I realize an ad exec hasn’t bothered to read Ogilvy. It’s a conversation-killer. As a salesman, marketer, copywriter, entrepreneur and advertiser, the man came from nothing to master his craft. The least you can do is buy his book.

Consider these last few points from the Confessions… chapter on drug marketing:

Advertising drugs is a special art. Here, started with the dogmatism of brevity, are the principles I recommend to those who practice this art:

. . . (4) A good patent-medicine advertisement conveys a feeling of authority. There is a doctor-patient relationship inherent in medicine copy, not merely a seller-buyer relationship.

(5) The advertisement should not merely extol the merits of your product; it should also explain the disease. The sufferer should feel that he has learned something about his condition.

(6) Do not strain credulity. A person in pain wants to believe that you can help him. His will to believe is an active ingredient in the efficacy of the product.

(*Sorry attorneys, but at least you get high-profile dramas. We get low-budget sitcoms, at best.)

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Comments (6)

  1. This alli company would definitely not pass the Future Now test of whether a company should work with FN or not: If people knew more about your company and its products would they be more likely to do business with you, in this case alli.

    While it would create a good up-sell opportunity for adult diapers, alli needs to lie to survive.

    For the goodness of humanity, companies need to be more honest and straightforward. Alli is a great example of perfectly legal product misrepresentation. Its so very sickening… but then again, what else should one expect from the pharmaceutical industry?

    P.S. – Prescription drugs are often made over the counter due to lobbying from OUR insurance companies so they don’t have to cover the bill.

  2. The advertising launch of this noxious weight-loss product reminded me of the big buzz years ago around “Wow” – potato chips made with Olestra that also could cause stomach cramps and embarassing discharges. When doing our weekly shopping, hubby and I would pass the snack food aisle and enjoy my marketing outbursts:

    Wow! Chips that make your tummy say “ow!”
    Wow! Pain in every delicious chip!

    I won’t share the rest as they got scatalogical.

    Not only does this kind of product make people hate marketers/marketings, it also makes us look like morons.

  3. [...] blog. I personally think Glaxo's moderated blog about an over-the-counter diet drug doesn't deserve any attention. It would be a dreadful challenge to use these good ideas on how to promote the blog using purely [...]

  4. [...] with flacks, there is plenty of comment floating around. An interesting place to start is here at Grokdotcom. The links are instructive. I’ve left comments on Grokdotcom to this piece of apologia. And [...]

  5. If I were them, I would remove the “wear dark clothes” warning. Something about a product that makes me poop my pants is not very appealing to me.

  6. Yeah not very appealing to me!

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