This week’s post “Sexy Reps Sell Rx” generated an interesting thread on women, beauty vs brains and pharmaceutical marketing on the PHARMA-MKTING online discussion list (see below).

In the midst of that discussion, I was made aware of a press release announcing the retention of Jerry Hall — the super model, actress, and former wife of Mick Jagger — as the (get this) “Global Ambassador for [Bayer HealthCare’s] Erectile Dysfunction Campaign.”

Jerry Hall might be famous for this quote: “”My mother said it was simple to keep a man, you must be a maid in the living room, a cook in the kitchen and a whore in the bedroom. I said I’d hire the other two and take care of the bedroom bit.”

So much for a wholesome image that should, in a more perfect world, be encouraged as spokespeople for pharmaceutical products (in this case, Levitra). I’ve come across some suggestive photos of Ms. Hall on the Internet, but I have chosen not to reproduce them here. Let’s just say that the images are not meant to evoke wholesomeness.

Putting that whole issue aside, I find this tack by Bayer interesting because it confirms that women (especially sexy women) sell. In the past, Levitra used male images and spokepeople in its ads — e.g., football coach Mike Ditka to launch the “Levitra® Challenge” during Super Bowl XXXVIII. He was dropped as was former senator Dole who spoke for Viagra.

It seems that ads with men telling men to see their docs to ask about ED were duds. I thought this might have to do with overstating the problem by ED drug marketers (see, for example, “ED Drug Sales Limp“). However, it may have been the fault of marketing not obeying the “sex sells” maxim. Cialis may have gained market share in part due to its ads that portrayed couples on the verge of coupling as it were. And then Levitra started using a woman actress to talk about her man, Now they have upped the ante and will employ a celebrity sex symbol as spokesperson!

It appears that Jerry Hall will be used to raise physicians’ “awareness” of levitra and to entice them to prescribe it. As stated in the press release:

Jerry Hall will make her first statement, public appearance and conduct interviews for the campaign on 4 December at Bayer HealthCare’s press conference “It Takes Two: Bayer’s Commitment to Couples” to be held at the 8th European Society of Sexual Medicine (ESSM) Congress taking place 4-7 December 2005, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Discussion Thread
This leads right back to the use of sexy reps to sell drugs to physicians and the PHARMA-MKTING thread on that topic, which I now reproduce below:

From Brian Towell (across the pond, so mind the spelling):

I belong more to John’s serious school of thought – the industry shooting itself once again in the foot while the foot is once again wedged firmly in its mouth.

The quality of a relationship between any stakeholder who has influence over whether or not this or that drug is selected for these or those patients is the primary objective of any skilled salesperson. It’s all about trust, familiarity, honesty and a certain intellectual resonance. I despaired to see John’s leaked ‘sales training’ manual earlier this year, and it still causes me some frustration that the industry can propose such a myopic view. If sex sells, then don’t package it as sex.

If you want to focus on women as an asset to your business, then look at what women can actually do really well that male leaders struggle with.

  • Link [rather than rank] workers;
  • favour interactive-collaborative leadership style [empowerment beats top-down decision making];
  • sustain fruitful collaborations;
  • comfortable with sharing information;
  • see redistribution of power as victory, not surrender;
  • favour multi-dimensional feedback;
  • value technical & interpersonal skills, individual & group contributions equally;
  • readily accept ambiguity;
  • honour intuition as well as pure “rationality”; (this is one of my personal favourites, but as a male, most women already knew that)
  • inherently flexible;
  • appreciate cultural diversity.

Let’s face it, Women really should rule!!

Who manages more things at once?
Who puts more effort into their appearance?
Who usually takes care of the details?
Who finds it easier to meet new people?
Who asks more questions in a conversation?
Who is a better listener?
Who has more interest in communication skills?
Who is more inclined to get involved?
Who encourages harmony and agreement?
Who has better intuition?
Who works with a longer ‘to do’ list?
Who enjoys a recap to the day’s events?
Who is better at keeping in touch with others?”

Not sure if looking pretty in your Maybelline and Estee Lauder adds anything to that, but lets face it, if you can package all of those skill sets into a 5′ 7″ brunette size 8 with pom-poms and great ‘assets’, maybe the industry is right? (Tongue firmly [and already apologetically] in cheek there!)

Interesting thread this, John. I wonder how the other women on the group feel about this?

  A de-identified person readily took on Brian’s challenge:

You asked for it, so here is one woman’s perspective on this topic.

Not to be too uptight (I was a rep once myself in this industry), but I think that this highly cynical view of “selling” is exactly what has frustrated my own personal physician, who, upon finding out that I am now a biomedical marketer, took me into his back room and showed me an overflowing trash can of marketing literature, post-its, pens, etc. etc.

He says that he also declines all invitations to “events,” regardless of whether they comply with AMA guildelines or not and refuses to see all reps. He says that he is fed up with the nonsense, and I totally understand.

Not to get on my high horse, but my physician clients became my personal friends for the most part, but that was because they could trust me (and my B.S. in Molecular Biology) to detail them properly and answer their questions honestly. I was always welcome in the offices, got appointments, catered lunches that the docs attended (and then gave me office time), and gained the coveted “come and sit with us while we discuss organizational politics” invitations. I really enjoyed all of it and loved my job, because it was genuine. I agree with a famous CEO who said (and I am paraphrasing) that in the end, what really sells is your authenticity.

By the way, my sales numbers were always top-notch.

We (the docs and I) would also sit around and laugh at the other girls in their short skirts and low cut blouses, hanging all over their married friends AS WELL AS at the look-alike coiffed male reps all scrambling to get them out to the local baseball game and strip clubs. News flash: the docs see right through it, and they know there is the attempt to manipulate them. Sales managers should take heed and build teams that truly understand the word “integrity.”

Bill Comcowich questioned the assumed, implied or inferred inverse relationship between beauty and integrity while simultaneously dissing CNBC’s Dylan Ratigan:

And you can’t have “authenticity” or “integrity” if you’re pretty or handsome??

I got a big charge out of the story being picked up by the Dylan Ratigan show on CNBC… He was critical of hiring pharmas hiring “pretty women”. Of course, it never occurred to him that most TV news anchors (including the vacuous Radigan) are hired largely because of their looks.

Jane Chin responded thusly:

Bill – exactly my point for my reply to John’s Blogpost, which he graciously included in the update (see “Merck to Shed Fat, But Not in Sales & Marketing” under Sexy Reps Sell Rx Redux).

All things being equal, I prefer looks that are easy on the eyes – men and women. (I’m a woman the last time I checked, which also confirms what another responder noted about marketing to women with pretty women (with the benefits of airbrushing in glossies).

[Jane’s referring to my comments: I must say that this view of the sales rep is unfair to all the reps out there that are trying to do the job above board and with proper attention to science and communicating the benefits and risks of drugs. These reps must come forward and blast this practice (of hiring cheerleaders) if it is widespread. I saw at least on one occasion a cheerleader-type female rep in my doctor’s office. My doctor happens to be a woman. But, women are also used to sell to women — note all the models on the covers of woman’s magazines.]

Of course, once you open your mouth, I’d eventually become interested in how much comes out of your knowledge than peeking through your {name preferred article of clothing}, unless I were someone who really don’t care about the information and wanted something inappropriate. That would speak more to the integrity and behavior of the perpetrator than the person wearing tight clothes, would it?

Since all things aren’t equal, the inequality may come from hiring practices, or the inequality may come from poor employee preparation (“training”), to start. Why not address these inequalities instead? Because we’re just following a safe bet of a sensational story – scandals, corruption, now throw in the sex for a 6-month ride atop the headlines.

Shivam A. suggested that knowledge and good looks are essential rep qualities:

Imagine reps who are valuable information providers, intellectual knowledge about drugs and one who has the clearity about why prescribing is better for a part brand over another ( supported by results from clinical trials etc)as mentioned here…

+ sexy impressive looks.

I am sure the blend of all above could definitely make a difference and impress upon the Rxers.

But lemme repeat it may not work out with someone who has either quality alone.

Frank said:

In my opinion the discussion ignores the simple fact, that it is one thing to hire people (cheerleaders in this case) just for their looks, and another to hire people for their talent in telling stories, being convincing and closing deals.

The story as proposed in the article implies, that people are hired just for their looks, which – again in my opinion – were a stupid thing to do, but of course is good story to be told in a newspaper (prove: the group, and the thread goes crazy about the story). I doubt that cheerleaders without further talent (opposite to bedside) will be hired.

Yes, all people prefer to listen to a story told by someone pretty and handsome. That’s a fact which can help to increase sales. But if the story coming out is crap, there will be no sales, as most doctors – in the mean time – did understand, that a pretty rep does not necessarily translate into a ex-affair.