The goal of every direct-to-consumer (DTC) ad is to get people to visit their doctors and ask about the advertised Rx drug. But are these ads effective?

The drug industry often defends DTC ads, claiming they ARE effective in achieving this goal. Some studies, however, seem to indicate that once people visit their physicians, they do not ask for the advertised drug (read, for example, “Advertisers Don’t Know How DTC Works. Say wha?“).

But the ads may not even be effective in driving people to see their physicians. Maybe that’s why Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) recently promoted a YouTube video it uploaded more that two years ago called “The Appointment.” It’s an non-branded attempt to use humor. JNJ’s corporate Twitter account (@JNJComm) recently posted this tweet:

“Afraid to visit the doctor? Don’t be! Watch ‘The Appointment’ for medicinal laughter – and important info > @JNJVideo”

On the YouTube page, JNJ introduces the video: “Many people are wary of making a doctors visit. In The Appointment, some extreme humor works to make several important points about why you should visit your doctor and most importantly things you should not be afraid to understand and ask. Enjoy and no, there really isnt a needle that big!”

Here’s the video:

A few people do not think the video is funny. One commenter (yes, JNJ accepts comments on its YouTube channel) said:

“I’m not one to start a YouTube spitting contest – I’m just saying that this seems to be a bit (not massively!) insensitive to both the clinicians and the patients who are trying to treat each other better. Your ultimate message in the vid is perfect – it just strikes me as missing the mark in its opening approach.”

One commenter even said it was “misguided”:

“Wow. I’m sure you meant it to be funny, but I have to say, this is the worst-conceived pitch I’ve ever seen for being an empowered patient.
In addition to the patient looking like something of a simpleton, to me it charicatures doctors in the worst possible way too..
I’m sure y’all meant well, but wow, this is misguided.”

To which JNJ replied:

“I understand and respect your point of view. It was supposed to be a lighthearted reminder to those who might not be practicing preventive care. You are already an informed, empowered patient who has dealt with, and become educated about, a life threatening disease. Although it uses caricutures of doctors and patients, the video is aimed at those who might have misconceptions or fears about visiting their doctors for annual check ups and other routine care.”

What do you think?