My post to this Blog back in July, 2006 entitled “Rozerem Ads Dis Lincoln, Show Beaver” has generated the most comment and is top-rated on Google searches for “rozerem ad” or “rozerem commercial.”

Interestingly, the Rozerem marketers or their “buzz” agency lackeys — maybe even the folks at Abelson-Taylor, the lead Rozerem ad agency — are attempting to hijack the conversation by submitting commercial messages (ie, ads) disguised as genuine comments from ordinary citizens. One example is the following anonymous comment:

“I found this page because I googled ‘rozerem commercial’ to find more information about the ad because I find it to be compelling and curious. I am just your average 44 year old woman and I can’t get this ad out of my mind. The imagery is intriguing and each time I see the advertisement I try to catch things I may have missed before: the beaver is eating eggs and sausage, so it must be a morning after insomnia. The beaver’s speaking voice is particularly attention getting and I don’t see it as a sexual image. I think the ad is funny, thought provoking, and cute and represents the random nature of our dreams. The advertisement has worked for me..I take Ambien and have been considering switching to rozerem. I guess that says it all.”

I don’t for a minute believe this is a genuine comment from an “average 44 year old woman,” do you?

Is this a genuine comment from a consumer?
Yes No

I have mentioned before that when marketers try to influence consumer or user generated content (UGC) on blogs and on bulletin boards they really, really suck at it (see, for example, “Question Everything“).

Here’s how I know the above comment is fake:

  • What self-respecting, average 44 year old woman would bother searching Google for “rozerem commercial”? Only a self-absorbed ad agency guy who was involved with creating the commercial would ever do that!
  • “compeling and curious” are two buzz words that a “creative” ad agency would use. Other ad agency buzz words used here include “imagery”, “intriguing”, “attention getting”, and thought provoking”. An ad agency measures its success by how “compelling” and “thought provoking” its ads are, not by how much product it sells. In the case of Rozerem, sales are definitely not compelling (see “Rozerem Ads Innovatively Ineffectual“).
  • Finally, the last sentence was the dead giveaway — the call to action! It’s what every ad should include. Obviously, it’s just a bit of wishful thinking in this case.

In other words, this is an ad disguised as a genuine comment!

The Rozerem marketing folks have done a poor “impact vs. risk” analysis of this doomed attempt to slip in an ad as a genuine UGC comment. First, the impact on sales of Rozerem is pretty minimal, especially when the effort is wasted on submitting comments to this blog. Second, the risk is high because the marketer is not in control of this channel, I am! Did you guys think I would just roll over and allow the comment through? But it was even more risky because now I am “outing” you and exposing you to ridicule. All of which could have been avoided if you were just honest with me and my readers!

Pharma Marketing Blog perhaps is not as democratic as are some patient blogs or online discussion boards. Maybe many of these are not moderated and allow all comments through. Yet, my experience with such UGC venues — I used to host a diabetes online discussion board — is that they are much less forgiving than I of attempts to hijack their discussions by marketers or shills of marketers.

I suggest, therefore, that marketers engage in honest dialogue with consumers if they are going to insert themselves into the conversation. Here are a few simple rules:

  1. Identify yourself. Don’t try to hide behind anonymity. It doesn’t work.
  2. Acknowledge your true motive, which is to help sell more of product you believe in. You do believe in it, don’t you?
  3. Encourage dialogue. You might learn something you can use. Just think of it as a free focus group.
  4. If things go wrong, don’t argue. Change course or retreat to fight another day.

In other words, be transparent!

Unfortunately, this can never happen in the real world where pharmaceutical marketers engage outside agencies to do their bidding. The agency cannot be transparent; it’s contrary to their very nature. Also, too much money and too many careers are at stake.