Direct to Consumer: Q&A with Mark Spellman and Loreen Babcock - Pharmaceutical Executive


Direct to Consumer: Q&A with Mark Spellman and Loreen Babcock
Operation Fear Factor

Pharmaceutical Executive

There is also a campaign on the market for people with an overactive bladder. And this one touches viewers who are afraid that their friends might know that they've had an accident. It's one of the first campaigns that we've seen that starts to lean on fear. Overactive bladder has been marketed in a pretty light way—so that people don't feel overly offended going in to discuss it. But this new approach starts to use the feeling of concern that you wouldn't want people to know that you have accidents.

Has that commercial been positively received?

BABCOCK: I think that it's being viewed as successful. This is a campaign in a category that we've never seen use fear. The industry is starting to discover where that balance is—the fear to the resolution. And where does that work? And what's the right balance for different categories? That's where the thinking has to evolve.

SPELLMAN: If you're going to use the negative emotion, you also need a strong enough hope message to motivate positive behavior.

Volkswagen took some heavy hits in the press for an ad that appealed heavily to fear. Two people are in a car talking, and all of a sudden they are slammed by another car. I recall that the ad didn't get very good reviews because it didn't balance the jarring emotional experience with enough of a hope message. On the other hand, the overactive-bladder ad did a good job of using emotion. In fact, it goes one step further—shame—which is probably the most difficult emotion of all.

But does it then balance the shame feeling with enough hope? In the Lipitor ad, you get the touch-of-mortality fears, the "Oh, dear, is this guy gone?" But there's enough hope in the ad that you're not left with a negative emotion. Because too much fear, too much shame, is only going to bring up defenses and put people back in denial.

Do agencies also use the opposite emotion—humor—in advertising?

SPELLMAN: Yes, I think the Rozerum ad [see Ad Stars, page 66] is a brilliant example because it captures the theme that some sleeping medications don't let you dream—because you don't sleep—while this medication does let you dream. And they give the dream theme in a very natural, humorous way.

I guess my question would be, did they have balance with the negative emotions involved? And do they also then give a course of action that's clear? I think the ad does a wonderful job of playing up the positive. I'm just not sure if it balances the equation with negative feelings around insomnia—how awful it is—and if they're clear enough about how their product is the solution.

BABCOCK: Another part of that answer is where the category is and what the brand goals are. For example, if the target is the very low-hanging fruit, fear doesn't necessarily have to enter the picture because the audience is going to be a little bit more knowledgeable and accepting of the product.

Emotion has a place, but deciding if and how to use it depends on where the brand is from a business point of view. Emotional advertising is a great tool when a brand is no longer bringing enough new people into the category, and every ad starts to fall into the same zone of everyone just looking happy and smiling. That doesn't help the consumers understand what the real issue is in a way that can motivate them.


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