I spent the whole day yesterday in Philadelphia attending CBI’s 6th Annual eMarketing for the Pharmaceutical Industry conference and a private screening of the documentary “Innerspace” at Dorland Global Public Relations.
I would like to focus on the Innerspace screening and reserve my e-Marketing remarks for another time.
Innerspace is a film produced by Centocor, which produces and markets biologics for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis — the three conditions described in the film. Here’s how the film is described in Centocor’s press release:
“…a first-of-its-kind documentary providing insight into the ‘inner states’ of three everyday adults facing chronic, life-altering inflammatory diseases. As they confront daily challenges and life’s experiences, they tell the emotional stories of their journeys toward living ‘normal’ lives in a film that is sure to touch the hearts of all viewers, including the millions of Americans who suffer from these conditions. The premiere will take place on Wednesday, February 21, 2007 at the Directors Guild of America Theatre in New York.”
In this press release Centocor invited the press to the initial screening and if I were more pro-active about reading every drug company press release ever written — aren’t you? — I would have seen the invite and probably would have had a good time in NYC glad-handing Centocor PR people and the film’s director Chris Valentino, whom I am told previously directed a film entitled “Brooklyn Mobster.”
Being form Brooklyn and having known some Brooklyn mobsters personally — a grade school chum of mine was shot dead at the age of 19 escaping from a bank robbery — this immediately put Valentino on a high rung of my esteem ladder. I must admit, however, that I have not seen the film “Brooklyn Mobster.” Maybe Valentino will read this and invite me to a private screening of THAT!
I have written about this film previously (see “No Oscar for Centocor PR Effort“) where I stated that “I’m not going to be one of those who review this film without having seen it…” Because many bloggers had put down the film without every seeing it, I also suggested that the Centocor PR people should have reached out to bloggers and specifically invited them to the initial screening of the film held in NYC in February.
Shortly after I made that post, Michael Parks, Centocor’s Director of Public Relations, and Executive Producer of Innerstate, submitted a comment to my post and invited me to a private screening. Obviously, an offer I could not refuse!
So, yesterday, I braved unusually horrendous Phily traffic to show up at Dorland’s offices on South Broad Street — thank you guy in pickup truck who allowed me to wedge in front of you to make that incredibly tight right-hand turn in front of City Hall!
When I got to Dorland and entered the conference room where the screening was to take place, who is sitting there but Michael Parks! He explained how the film got produced and what his goals were and graciously answered all my questions. He also stayed through the whole 58 minutes running time of the film and watched it again even though he’s probably seen it a hundred times! I’m sure, however, like any executive producer, Parks never gets tired of watching his “baby.”
When I first wrote about Innerstate I said: “I cannot trust that the words and stories told by the people in the film were not carefully scripted by the Centocor PR flacks.”
First, I must admit that Parks does not appear to be your standard PR “flack.” Parks took the initiative to invite me to a screening and then spent time answering my questions. That’s a lot more than any other pharma PR person has done. Of course, it is the job of a PR person to deal with the “press,” but many do not seem to have the time or inclination to deal with bloggers. I suspect this attitude is changing.
Second, I have to say now that the words definitely were NOT scripted. They are obviously true stories told by real patients in their own words. Undoubtedly, the scenes were carefully edited, but no one put words in these peoples’ mouths.
A couple of other points about the people in the film — “Jason, a restaurant manager living with psoriasis; Ray, a racecar driver and NASCAR® hopeful sidetracked by Crohn’s disease; and Janie, an aspiring country music artist living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).” Not only are they real, they are refreshing real like the people you see in YouTube videos. They are not glamorous or even good-looking — except to their moms and dads who also appear in the film.
Everything is shot on location, albeit a little bit too southern Americana for a former New York City-slicker like myself. There’s lots of country roads signs, American flags, railroad crossings, pick up trucks, etc. Mostly in Texas, too! But there’s no makeup and no fancy sets. The director, however, uses a special kind of cinematography to focus in on the people and keep most of the shabby backgrounds out of focus.
Cannot Escape DTC Roots
The only part that sounded scripted was when the physicians rattled off the serious side effects of the new “biologics” that are the film’s unbranded heroes. This information, which is probably not necessary to provide in unbranded disease awareness productions such as this, was presented in the conventional manner that we are all familiar with from watching TV DTC ads. Parks emphasized that although not required, he was committed to present this information and even keep in a bit where one of the patients mentioned an adverse reaction.
Speaking of TV DTC ads, I asked Parks if he had any plans to use clips of the film in branded TV ads. He said “absolutely not” at least not as long as he has anything to say about it.
My good friend Harry Sweeney, Dorland’s Chairman and CEO, who was in the room at that point, suggested that one should never say “never.”
In fact, I agree with Harry. It’s refreshing to see real people — not actors — talking in their own words — not reading scripts. It’s very appropriate in this day of consumer generated content (CGC), YouTube, and Myspace. I don’t see why these clips and people cannot be used in real ads or on the product Web site.
Actually, I can think of one reason why not. According to Parks, none of the people in the film was paid, not even the docs. He said there were a lot of people who auditioned and all of them wanted to tell their stories without being paid. Not being paid for an unbranded disease awareness film is one thing, but not being paid for appearing in branded TV ads is another.
Still, there is precedent: note that CGC content was used in some Super Bowl ads and a recent Dove ad I saw. None of these people were paid, although “winners” did get some cash-equivalent rewards — a Super Bowl ticket or perhaps a lifetime supply of Dove body wash!
Sorry, Michael! I said I wasn’t going to write a review, but I just did! I guess I am suffereing from the same Blog addiction as Peter Rost (see “Rost Retires, Relapses, Returns, Redacts“).