BOO! Big Pharmas Like GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Mylan Use Scare Tactics to Drum Up Sales 

BOO! Big Pharmas Like GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Mylan Use Scare Tactics to Drum Up Sales
September 13, 2016
By Alex Keown, Breaking News Staff

NEW YORK – Is fear a powerful marketing tool for pharmaceutical companies? The answer is yes, according to a Monday Advertising Age report. The article highlights how pharmaceutical companies like Mylan (MYL), Pfizer (PFE) and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) use terrifying images in television commercials to increase awareness and sales of their products. The products highlighted are Mylan’s Epi-Pen Auto Injector, Pfizer’s meningitis B vaccine, Trumenba and GSK’s whooping cough vaccine Boostrix. John Mack, of Pharma Marketing News, told Ad Age that an advertising trend for injectable drugs that carry a high price tag is “to scare people into buying their product or getting their vaccine.”

The EpiPen commercial, which doesn’t actually mention Mylan by name, depicts a young person going into anaphylactic shock after ingesting peanuts. The ad actually directs consumers to an informational website about anaphylactic shock and remedies, such as the EpiPen–which has had its own terror-inducing issues lately when people see the high-price of the autoinjector.

The trend of using fear tactics, for lack of a better explanation, has come about in the past few years. Ad Age noted that when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration relaxed pharmaceutical advertising rules in the 90s, ads were “often more cheerful, upbeat and positive.” However, the advertisements have turned darker as, Ad Age says, “prices have risen and consumers have become more cynical of profiteering brands.

From the perspective of the drug companies though, boldness is important in informing the public about their healthcare options. Speaking with a representative from Merck (MRK), Ad Age highlights the commercial for the HPV drug, Gardasil, where children ask their parents if they knew they were at risk for getting cancer.

“This campaign is designed to help parents become aware of the potential risk of HPV-related cancers for their children later in life,” the Merck spokesperson said, according to Ad Age.

A spokesperson for GSK said its Boostrix commercial, which features a wolf in grandmother’s clothing holding a coughing child was effective in harnessing the familiar “Little Red Riding Hood” imagery about hidden dangers. This campaign tested well among grandparents and motivated them to talk to their healthcare provider about vaccination,” the GSK spokesperson said.

Fear-mongering doesn’t always work though, when it comes to healthcare. Ad Age noted that anti-smoking advertisements intended to curb teen smoking have not been as successful.

“Fear can be motivating until it’s demotivating,” Tim Hawkey, managing director and exec creative director at Area 23, an FCB Health company, said. “There’s a threshold at which we turn off and say, ‘That’s not me, that’s someone else—my brain can’t handle this level of risk and information.'”


Source: BioSpace