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Study Critical of ED Advertisers

Study Critical of ED Advertisers

This study…does not… fairly portray the ethics of drug makers.”
-Bob Ehrlich


A study on erectile dysfunction advertising was highly critical of drug makers. The study was published in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law on 2/15/13. The authors are university professors Dennis Arnold and James Oakley from UNC Charlotte and Montana State University. Basically the study concludes leading ED drugs did not fully follow the PhRMA guidelines for DTC advertising.

They examined the content and media audience for the advertising and concluded that for several PhRMA guidelines, the ads did not meet the standards set. Most troubling to the authors seems to be age targeting. That is, these ads are appearing on shows that still are viewed by children. Much of the consumer and political criticism of ED ads arose because of the referral to four hour erections in the risks statement. Parents were embarrassed trying to answer questions on this side effect.

The media analysis in the study showed ad buys where young people were watching. Much of this advertising can be seen on sports programming. Unfortunately for the critics, drug companies rightfully
advertise where men 55+ watch. Should advertisers avoid their target audience because of potential parental embarrassment?

There are many ads that reach children during sports programming that are for adult products. Beer is most prominent with numerous sexily clad women. Day time ads have always featured feminine hygiene products because many female homemakers were watching. Movies advertise their sex and violence during programs watch by children. I guess I would conclude that advertising ED is relatively mild in terms of the sex scale. Parents cannot keep their children from the real world and blaming ED ads for causing embarrassment is something that falls low on the scale compared to the constant barrage of sex and violence on television.

I do not dismiss the parental concern. I just want to place it in context to what children see every day on television. Drug makers want to advertise to their target audience and have to make that business decision on whether their ads are offensive and will cost them in reputation. Broadcasters can refuse to air the ads if they feel it will lose them an audience. Clearly, by allowing them to air the broadcasters have decided the potential offense is minimal. Also the adult watching can zap the offensive ads if kids are in the room. ED ads have been around long enough that parents can recognize them within a few seconds; well before any mention of four hour erections occur.

This study is interesting in that it raises the issues of ethics in DTC advertising. It does not, however, fairly portray the ethics of drug makers. The professors seem to want to create some sinister motive to violating the guidelines. The only motive is reaching the desired target audience. For that drug companies need not apologize. ED is a medical condition that involves blood flow to the penis. I am sorry if some parents are asked to explain it. Our world is no longer like Leave It to Beaver of the 1950’s. Parents need to explain a lot of contentious issues like school shootings, jihadist terrorism, crystal meth, degrading lyrics in Rap music, teen pregnancy, gay marriage, and abortion. ED should not be high on the list of things parents dread to discuss.

Bob Ehrlich, Chairman

DTC Perspectives, Inc.

Bob Ehrlich
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer at DTC Perspectives
Bob Ehrlich has over 20 years marketing experience in pharmaceutical and consumer products. Bob is the CEO of DTC Perspectives, Inc., a DTC services company founded in 2000. DTC Perspectives, Inc. developed the DTC National Conference, the largest DTC conference in the industry. DTC Perspectives, Inc. also publishes DTC Perspectives, a quarterly journal dedicated to DTC issues and practices. In addition DTC Perspectives, Inc. does DTC consulting for established and emerging companies, and provides DTC marketing plans for pharmaceutical companies.
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