The latest Chantix smoking cessation DTC television ad is featuring my favorite wise guy actor Ray Liotta. Looking a little grayer and heavier Ray is still the iconic member of the De Niro/Pesci crew from Goodfellas, maybe only slightly behind The Godfather in my favorites list. Ray is also in my favorite baseball movie Field of Dreams, portraying the leader of the dead baseball players returning to Kevin Costner’s cornfield.
Ray’s lifelong bugaboo was getting to stop smoking. Pfizer is using him to promote Chantix and rather than just being a paid announcer he is actually a real patient, still paid handsomely I assume. I like him in this role. Usually I wonder how much a celebrity adds to a drug pitch. Do potential users really care that a Hollywood type uses a drug? There have been very effective celebrity campaigns, Sally Field for Boniva, Jennifer Aniston for Dry Eye, Phil Mickelson for Psoriatic Arthritis to name a few.
A celebrity campaign needs to get the audience to believe that the celebrity actually uses or really believes in the drug advertised. There are some celebrities who endorse anything and pushing garlic pills, grape juice, reverse mortgages, might hurt your credibility when pushing a cancer treatment. Drug companies need to be very careful that the celebrity chosen has limited exposure as an endorser of health products.
Ray Liotta, to my recollection is not a serial endorser. In fact I do not remember him doing any commercials. That is a good first step. Can I Imagine Ray Liotta having a smoking habit? Sure can. Is Ray credible saying he has had a lifelong problem stopping smoking? Yes. So far so good. What is interesting about the campaign is that Chantix has been on air for years with regular folks pitching their success. Maybe they felt they needed to reinvigorate the story and potential customers would stop and re-engage after all the years of real patient testimonials. Ray got my attention, maybe a bit less than Joe Pesci would have, but any Goodfella is better than none.
I do not know if this is a one off use of a celebrity for Chantix or the first in a series. One thing we know is Hollywood is likely full of smokers, and addicts of other less than legal substances. No credibility issue with Ray having a smoking addiction. I am sure Pfizer will be very careful vetting their celebrity candidates. With all the problems of celebrity reveals on past sexual harassment/assault it is important to do your homework. I think they have chosen well here. Congratulations to Pfizer and their agency for a well done celebrity campaign.