Celebrity Endorsements for Pharmaceuticals

Articles asserting that celebrities have little to no influence with consumers routinely pop up in PR periodicals, journals, and newsletters, frequently accompanied Kelly Stables by “surveys” as bona fide evidence and irrefutable proof. While I do not assert that folks blindly follow advice from a celebrity, my sense is that these surveys are inherently flawed. Who, if asked, would actually admit that they allow famous good looking celebrities to do their thinking for them? Nobody.

Critics of ads featuring celebrities further argue that celebrities aren’t credible as spokespersons for pharmaceutical products. When presented with a controlled ad, these naysayers contend, consumers are pre-disposed to think, “What does Wilford Brimley know about diabetes? He’s just an actor!” No, he’s Wilford Brimley, actor slash actual diabetic. Check out his pioneering Liberty Medical ads. He’s not pretending to deliver orthodox medical opinions. He’s making a statement. “This is an ailment. I am living with it. Here’s a solution that can help. It worked for me.”

In fact, matching the right celebrity with the right product is like catching lightning in a prescription bottle. But don’t take it from me. Look at the uber-successful ad campaign for Boniva featuring Sally Field. While GSK has received a fair share of criticism for this celebrity sponsorship, the company has renewed the Flying Nun’s contract for five consecutive years. Anecdotally, every person I’ve asked has seen the commercial, can name not just the condition (osteoporosis), but the drug (Boniva), that ameliorates it. In terms of raising awareness while simultaneously generating brand recognition, the Sally Field/Boniva campaign is a home run – scratch that – a grand slam, by any estimation.

A celebrity appearance in an ad campaign, at the very least, grabs our attention. And that’s half the sale. We’re already wondering why this baseball player likes this actress, so why wouldn’t we wonder why he likes this product? Celebrity campaigns also nudge the consumer to arrive at this conclusion: if it’s good enough for celebrities who can buy anything because they’re rich, then it’s good enough for me.

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