I’ve found myself at the gym lately (call it a jump on the inevitable New Year’s resolution if you will). Unlike most people who listen to music or watch the Food Network (a form of weird punishment for one at the gym, if you ask me!), I tend to watch the world news. As the days go by, I have found that I’m thinking more and more about what I’m watching in between news segments more than the actual news. I’m talking about the commercials.
Overwhelmingly, there are more commercials for medications than at any other time that I watch television (and full disclosure, I watch a lot of television). This is probably because the demographics of people who watch the world news tend to be older and thus are more likely to be the target market for a range of medications.
These commercials aren’t new or surprising. However, for the past year or so, I’ve noticed something interesting happening. In the midst of all of these advertisements for name brand drugs are commercials that appear to be for no actual product.
The first is a commercial regarding the shingles virus. There’s no drug being advertised, and the only call to action is to talk to your doctor or pharmacist, and there’s a website. It was only after watching closely that I realized the commercial was sponsored by the pharmaceutical company Merck. Call me a skeptic, but my first thought was, “what are they selling.” Not because I think all pharmaceutical companies are big and bad. It’s quite the opposite, actually, as I have great respect for such companies. But my marketing experience told me that there had to be some reason Merck had created this commercial. A little digging revealed that in 2012, Merck began a push to promote its shingles vaccine, which is intended for people over the age of 60. The goal is to raise awareness of shingles in the hopes that people may begin talking about the virus with their doctors.
The second commercial that I noticed is a commercial about the hepatitis C virus. Again, there is no actual medication being marketed. In this case, the call to action involves a website, a phone number, and again, a call to talk to your doctor. The first time I saw this commercial, I knew it was different from others. I watched closely and caught at the end that it was sponsored by the pharmaceutical company AbbVie. Again, I went on a fact-finding mission. What is AbbVie trying to do with this commercial? Not surprisingly, I learned that AbbVie has several ongoing trials for medications aimed at treating hepatitis C. Again, the goal here appears to raise awareness in the hopes that people may talk to their doctor—this time about hepatitis C treatments.
Awareness is incredibly hard to measure. Unless you’ve done extensive baseline assessments, it’s very difficult to reliably tell how or where someone heard about your product, making it hard to measure the success of your effort. But in these cases, perhaps it’s working. No, I don’t have shingles or hepatitis C, but I am blogging about these commercials, perhaps doing my part to raise awareness!