Are You Aging Well? Ask Pfizer

August 21, 2014
Marylyn Donahue

Pharmaceutical Executive

I’ve just finished taking Pfizer’s #FOGO (Have A Fear of Getting Old?) test on getold.com. I passed with flying colors.

I’ve just finished taking Pfizer’s #FOGO (Have A Fear of Getting Old?) test on getold.com. I passed with flying colors. The results assured me that I would have a hell of a time aging during these advancing years and that the last lap of my life would be a breeze.

Why? I wonder. Was it because I answered that I preferred reading Jane Austen to “Everyone Poops,” or that I didn’t like pizza, or that I could run 2 miles without stopping? Hard to tell. The test was more silly than scientific. It was also inaccurate. I couldn’t be more concerned and, yes, afraid about growing old (since I am getting on, as they say). Basically I agree with Bette Davis when she famously said: “Getting old is not for sissies.” It’s daunting-your body goes, your mind goes. There is the trade-off of gaining some wisdom along the way…maybe. But basically it is a bitch.

#FOGO, a social media public relations campaign, is the brainchild of Pfizer, the world’s number one drug company. But make no mistake. It is not for promoting a drug. It is not even for exclusively alleviating the fear of aging (if that’s remotely possible). Its primary purpose is to make you feel good about Pfizer.

And it seems to be working. According to research conducted by Pfizer at the end of last year, perceptions of the company among consumers who visited getold.com  (#FOGO website) improved by 55 percentage points.

Then again, what’s not to like about their unrelenting positive message in the form of personal stories that are more down-home than slick-two kids, for instance, verbally competing as to whose grandmother is stronger? And I suppose there is something to be said for the issue being addressed at all. It’s certainly not a hot topic at cocktail parties. As for Hollywood and Madison Avenue, they both treat aging as a dirty little secret. Models over 20 years old are over the hill when it comes to selling or marketing anything.  And on the getold website there’s none of that icky old stuff about illness, diminished mental capacity, incontinence, dentures, or depression that can bum you out. It couldn’t be more upbeat.

Pfizer is shelling out $3 million a year on their “get old” initiative, which is being crafted by Huge, an agency that specializes in digital advertising. Trying to brand a drug company is as notoriously difficult as branding a disease, and generics now make it even more difficult to know where, or to even care what company your drugs are coming from.

“It’s time to tell the truth about aging..” says the Pfizer campaign. “The less you fear it, the more you’ll enjoy it.”

But how do you stop fearing it?

Over at Deepak Chopra’s Timeless U website, he too is tackling the subject of trying to get a kick out of aging. An Indian by birth, Chopra takes a more spiritual, Vedantic approach. He believes in eating right, and meditation, of course, but most of all Chopra’s main advice is to (metaphorically) change the prescription on your glasses. The world is as you see it, he implies. Perception is everything. If you fear, then you will be fear. If you are happy, then you are happy.

Back at Pfizer, Sally Susman, the executive vice president for corporate affairs of who is overseeing the aging-well initiative, admits the solution is not easy.

“The topic can be tough,” she told the New York Times, ” but it will be leavened by “introducing some humor, which will be a new and dynamic part of this campaign.

“Aging, we’re doing it every day,” she said. “FOGO - everyone seems to have one; it’s a great conversation starter.” In fact, it can be the best time of your life. So join us and get old with a new attitude.”