DTC TV ads show just how bad agencies really are

imagesKEY TAKEAWAY:  Some viewers of the Super Bowl said pharma ads addressing not-so-pleasant bodily functions during Sunday’s broadcast missed the mark.  What missed the mark, however, was not the placement of the ads but the creative execution, which, although I’m sure was tested to the Nth degree, just didn’t make “common sense”.

Most DTC marketers are process driven.  They love to test concepts and ads with focus groups but what’s missing is the “empathy, common sense” approach to DTC TV commercials driven by agencies that quite frankly stink.  What was really bad wasn’t the idea to run the spots on the Super Bowl, what was really bad was the creative execution by agencies too limited in talent to develop better creative and convince uptight DTC executives that a different approach is needed.


The pharmaceutical industry may not have delivered the funniest ads of the night, but the companies did spark social media conversation about the ailments addressed in the spots. Since AstraZeneca’s OIC ad aired, there have been 20,000 visits to the campaign’s website OICisDifferent.com. However, more analysis is needed as most of the buzz could have been sarcastic or antagonistic towards the condition.

The failed creative on these spots include the image of a man coming out of the rest room, obviously in heaven because he was able to go to the bathroom as well as “Mr Intestine” running through a stadium to find a restroom in a hurry.  Now wouldn’t it have made more sense to show just how bad irritable bowel is through the eyes of a patient rather than use a cartoon character?

It has also been my experience that people who take opiates are fully aware that one of their key side effects is constipation.  Again, wouldn’t it have been better to take a more empathetic approach for patients who have to take these strong pain killers to deal with bad pain without having to worry about the bloating of constipation?


I was lucky to work for a great DTC manager on the Cialis team who knew how to broach a “delicate” condition, but more than that she also was smart enough to manage the agency and give them great direction.  Today the ranks of talent in DTC management are thin at best and agencies are producing garbage commercials to the point where once again people are calling for an end to DTC TV commercials.  They shouldn’t end; we just need better agencies and DTC managers.