Xpectives News

A Time For Hope Through Science

May 20, 2020 by Bob Ehrlich0
Dear DTC Colleague,

The first campaign I have chosen to discuss is corporate. Normally I will focus on brand or disease information campaigns. In this case and at this time, however, it is highly appropriate to discuss the new Pfizer spot on research for COVID-19 which first aired April 15. The campaign is a powerful statement on what research scientists at Pfizer and other private and public institutions are doing to battle COVID-19.

The 60 second campaign is themed around the phrase “Science Will Win.” The creative device here is showing vignettes of scientists conducting research. An authoritative announcer narrates the reassuring story that society has faced disease and pandemics in the past and won and will again. What is very interesting is the term Coronavirus or COVID-19 is never said. The ad starts with scenes of people with masks and empty store shelves. We don’t really need to hear the disease name as it is obvious to all of us what the ad is referencing.

“With Science Will Win, we sought to create hope by reinforcing our commitment to scientific collaboration and our pledge to use our resources to battle against and ultimately end the pandemic,” Pfizer’s Dana Gandsman, Senior Director, Reputation Communications told DTC Perspectives.

Why is this ad good? At a time when the Pharma industry is facing so much criticism over the price of drugs, it is inspiring to hear that the drug makers are likely to give us hope for an eventual return to normalcy. The role of drug makers as heroic saviors of mankind may have seemed disingenuous to many Americans in the past. When PhRMA ran its excellent industry campaign a few years ago promoting its research it was probably seen cynically by many critics. Industry has argued that clinical research will suffer under price controls. That argument was difficult to make successfully as politicians and consumer advocates constantly criticized drug company pricing and profits.

The new Pfizer ad is coming at a time when industry probably does have the admiration and support of most Americans. Pfizer does not try to explicitly promote its own company in this ad. In fact the only company mention is in the super at the end of the ad. Pfizer has been in the news for its COVID-19 vaccine development with a German partner and the possibility of a vaccine available by year end.

Drug makers have a huge opportunity to drastically change their image. Gilead just donated all of its existing Remdesivir doses, the first drug proven to treat COVID-19. I am sure a vaccine will be priced very favorably and will not be a huge financial win for the drug industry. Will Bernie Sanders still hate us? Yes, but hearing him still talk about drug company profiteers seems odd and out of touch. The lesson from COVID-19 is we need the power and, yes, profitability of private industry to keep us safe.

Pfizer and Grey, who is the agency behind this ad, deserve credit for producing an ad that gives accolades to every research scientist at all of the companies working on cures. This is not a time for self-promotion as we are truly all in this together. Will ads like these change the feeling about drug companies? I expect that if one of these companies produces an affordable vaccine or cure within a year the image will improve dramatically. Will consumers get back to complaining about high drug prices? They will, but drug companies will build up a lot of goodwill if normalcy returns because their investment in science won over the virus.
Bob Ehrlich,
DTC Perspectives, Inc.

Bob Ehrlich

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