Saturday, February 9, 2008

Doctoring the footage

Today's Journal Gazette Scorecard puts Lipitor spokespitchman Robert Jarvik in its "Losers" column:

Inventor of artificial heart comes under fire for cholesterol drug pitch, including a commercial in which he is shown rowing a racing shell. An ad agency hired a double to portray the doctor, who a colleague describes as “about as much an outdoorsman as Woody Allen.”
After reading about Jarvik, I immediately thought of Lutheran Health Network CEO Mike Schatzlein's December blog post, which now looks pretty prescient:
I’m not sure I’d take drug advice from Rob. His artificial heart was way cool, but the company he founded to make and sell it went belly up. Additionally, if memory serves, Rob went straight into research after medical school. I don’t believe he ever served an internship or residency, held a license to practice medicine, or wrote a prescription.

So much for my resentment and envy over all the money Pfizer is paying Rob to look good for the camera.
Now that Lipitor appears to be paying someone else to look like Jarvik in order to make Jarvik look good, we have to wonder what other smoke and mirrors Lipitor is using. Not that smoke and mirrors are new to advertising, but the bar is set a little higher when we're talking about medical advice, as the Pharma Marketing Blog explains:
I admired the skill of the rower, turning the blades of the oars just right for minimum drag between strokes. Because I thought Dr. Jarvik was the actual rower, I admired him all the more, which in turn made me more prone to trust his statements about Lipitor.
Has the Jarvik flap changed my mind about law firm ads? Nope. The legal professional does need to impose some rules on advertisers. But it also needs fewer ads that look could have been created by Ross Fishman's Automatic Advertising Generator.

Pharmaceutical ads need rules, too, but the important takeaway here for every advertiser is the importance of authenticity. If your spokesperson
can't row a racing shell, don't show him rowing a racing shell. And if you need a body double, think twice about the message you're sending.

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