YAZ birth control pill marketers seem to be thumbing their noses at the FDA, which recently sent Bayer a letter expressing concerns that two ads for the drug go too far in suggesting the drug was approved to treat acne (see “FDA and YAZ: Is FDA Helping Marketers Work Around Regulations?“). FDA was concerned that the TV ads could be viewed as suggesting the drug also remedied PMS and broader conditions of acne.

The ads in question were halted — actually, ran their course on TV — and removed from the YAZ Web site, but now acne is mentioned front and center on the home page in a way that implies that YAZ is approved for the treatment of the broader conditions of acne. IMHO. Tell me what you think.

What immediately drew my attention was the poll that asked: “Would you consider taking birth control pills to help treat acne, if you were also seeking contraception?” Well, yeah! Duh! No surprise that over 90% of “respondents” said “Yes” and only 3% said “No.” I suspect the minions at YAZ’s ad agency click that “Yes” button several times a day in order to keep that percentage above 90!

Not only is there a suggestive poll linking YAZ to the treatment of acne, there is also a helpful quiz that asks the rhetorical question “Can birth control pills help clear up acne?” Hey, I don’t need no stinkin’ quiz! YAZ can clear up acne; I know that! Of course I know that!

In other words, I suspect that a lot of women would not bother to take the quiz and would just take away the implied message that YAZ will clear up broader conditions of acne. But I took the quiz anyway.

The quiz did not mention acne until the fifth question where it was finally revealed that YAZ treats “moderate acne in women who choose the Pill for contraception.”

This just strikes me as obeying the letter of the law but not the spirit. YAZ marketers simply will NOT give up using acne to sell their product. It’s not even a unique selling point as every Pill will have the same effect on “moderate acne in women who choose the Pill for contraception.”

P.S. The YAZ-acne poll is just another example of a Web 2.0 trick that can be performed right under the FDA’s nose (see PMN Reprint 68-02 and this Blog post).

The poll implies that it is authentic feedback from readers when in fact it is very deceptive because (1) the results do no include how many votes were cast and (2) we do not know if a single person can cast multiple votes in a single sitting. In other words, it is not genuine “user-generated content” that users can trust.

UPDATE: It appears that the YAZ marketers have heard about my criticism of its little poll and have disabled it. The poll is still there as of December 11, 2008, but if you click on “View Results” there are NO results shown (actually all answers are set to “0 %”). And if you try to vote, it crashes — a blank page fills your browser. Maybe this is is just a temporary technical glitch or maybe it is a quick fix that has gone awry.