Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Do you know this man?

I was flipping through the Washington Post today and noticed this advertisement on the back page of the first section, probably the most expensive location in the newspaper.  It is an ad for Eliquis, a blood thinning agent for people with atrial fibrillation that is presented as an alternative to warfarin.  I make no judgment about the relative efficacy of the drug compared to others, but I was drawn to the question of why Bristol-Myers Squibb chose this particular male model to represent its product.

What is it about this image that someone has concluded will draw people to ask their doctor to prescribe this medication? I have to guess that BMS's ad agency conducted focus group sessions, testing out this photo against others.  I wonder what other faces were offered?

Can we parse this fellow's visage?  It is a male with gray hair showing.  Is this meant to send the message that he understands the problems of older men?  Perhaps people would view him as ruggedly handsome, so is the company playing to the fear of men that their virility would be at risk with AF?  And that this problem would be solved by Eliquis?  (I thought that product was sildenafil citrate, produced by a competing firm, Pfizer.)  How do any of these factors relate to the other target audience, women?

So I decided to call the 855-ELIQUIS number and ask.  A friendly and helpful person answered.  I wondered who the person in the ad was, saying that I assumed it was someone notable who was endorsing the product.  The person on the phone said she would research that question.  She returned shortly thereafter and said that she was sorry, but they "didn't have any information on that question at this time."

I went to our favorite source, Google.  On January 24, 2013, Medical Marketing and Media noted the FDA's late-2012 approval of the drug and reported:

The company sees advertising and promotion spending “increasing in the high single-digit range” for 2013....

“Higher spending is strategically prudent to assure a successful Eliquis launch,” said CreditSuisse's Catherine Arnold in an analyst note.

But no hint of a rationale for this photo.

But not to worry.  The FDA is on the case.  MMM reports:

According to OPDP (Office of Prescription Drug Promotion), “Our objective as an agency is to increase the quality of DTC (Direct to Consumer) ads so they do not contain any misleading information and instead provide patients with good information about prescription drugs and medical conditions.”

So whatever the rationale for this photo, we can be confident that it contributes appropriately to consumer understanding of this drug and does not attempt to use any subliminal messaging to encourage people to use it.


Unknown said...

have you seen the TV commercial with the old man driving, ignoring his navigation system and plotting a fancy vacation because of his new blood thinner?

Anonymous said...

The man's photo in the ad also caught my eye---ruggedly handsome, but not who I would expect to have a-fib. I guess it accomplished its mission---to get readers to slow down and notice the ad. But it also distracts from the knowledge and awareness of the use of the drug, because none of us is discussing the risks or benefits of this particular drug.

wrinkledman said...


Anonymous said...

Paul, I thought you might have some perspectives on this interesting statistic: when a man's wife develops cancer/MS, he leaves her 21% of the time. When the opposite occurs, she leaves 3% of the time.

What is your perspective on this discrepancy between the two genders in this regard, and what might we do to help future boys make sure that they're in the 79% group? It's a terrible ethical situation in which I'd enjoy reading a blog that defends or explains the 21%.

Pat said...

This would be too funny, except it is not. Enticing us to ask for branded drugs that may or may not be worth the cost is clearly part of the health cost problem. I hope they paid this guy lots of money because clearly his ruggedly handsome (slightly aging) face is doing the job it was supposed to.

Paul Levy said...


I don't think I am qualified to even guess on that topic. You raise a very interesting question.

Unknown said...


This is not related to the topic but I couldn't find a better place. I am a 1st year MBA student at Wake Forest Schools of Business and am preparing for an in class case analysis this Saturday And of course, it is a HBR case- Paul Levy:Taking Charge of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Did a lot of research about your work in the past week and wanted to stop by and say hello and thank you for giving us a wonderful inspirational case (you may have heard this from million other students, I guess). By the way I am an Environmental Scientist, so your Boston Harbor Clean-up effort was interesting too.

Paul Levy said...

Thank you, Dhaval. Who is the professor for your course?

Unknown said...


Dr Amy Wallis is teaching us this course and the course name is Leading Change. She has provided us access to the HBS Courseware, which makes reading about this case a great fun. Hats off to you for not just the turn around but being able to do it without having a medical degree. I can understand how difficult it must have been for you to take charge of the situation, while not being from their fraternity. You are a classic example for all aspiring leaders that one person can bring changes if there is a will and motivation to do it.