Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Body doubles and the truth

Ad Age reported today that Pfizer--"under Congressional pressure"--will pull its Lipitor ads that featured Dr. Robert Jarvik. The ads indicate clearly that he is a user of the product, but they are also somewhat misleading. I for one was always under the impression that he is a practicing cardiologist, not just the inventor of an artificial heart (http://www.adage.com/).

But then I also thought the ads gave the impression that he is a rower, a sport that we in Philadelphia take very seriously. Alas, not true either. The agency used a body double. But why did it take Pfizer so long to pull these ads? The New York Times first reported on this advertising snafu on February 7, 2008 (http://www.nytimes.com/).

Actually, I thought the ads featuring Dr. Jarvik undermined what they were supposed to do in the first place--achieve credibility for the product and establish authority. His reptilian features and arrogant manner did little to inspire confidence in me. And the use of a medical doctor to hawk product bordered on an area that lies somewhere between the Distasteful and the Unethical.

Now, whatever Pfizer hoped to achieve is further compromised.

Take away: Marketers beware of using endorsements--celebrity or otherwise. They often backfire or fall out of fashion or go into rehab. But if you do use them, for heaven's sake, don't compound the problem by letting a good storyboard idea overtake the truth.

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