Part 1: Why Was I Chosen?

A few months ago, in response to a TV ad, I registered on to receive a Men’s Facts Kit and free sample offer for Levitra, a treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED) manufactured by Bayer and marketed by GSK and Schering-Plough.

Not that I have ED! I was just doing some research on the subject!

That’s the problem. A lot of men may be researching the subject, but fewer than expected (or desired) are actually stepping up to their physicians and asking for a specific ED treatment. Sales for ED drugs — Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra — are limp, at least from the perspective of where sales should be according to ED drug marketers’ plans (see ED Drug Sales Limp and Blockbuster or Ballbuster?).

According to Richard Meyer, who was a member of the Cialis marketing team for 4 years (now a fellow blogger over at World of DTC Marketing), “When I was on the Cialis team doing some research with ED patients, I remember at one point a member of our team saying ‘I don’t know if we can reach these guys with TV. They have a lot going on.’ She was referring to the emotional barriers that men have to overcome to seek treatment for ED.”

Given this reality, it’s no surprise that the Levitra folks are interviewing men who registered for the Men’s Facts Kit but who have not yet taken advantage of the free offer. They are trying to find out why these men have not gone to their doctors to get scripts for Levitra.

I was one of the guys they called. As always, when called, I am here to serve the industry! Especially if they are willing to pay me a nice cash honorarium for a one-hour, one-on-one interview! (drat! Now I have to declare the income!)

Before being invited to the interview, I was screened by phone by Wendy (not her real name) who called from Florida (a real state). Of course, I had to admit that I had problems maintaining an erection about 20% or more of the time. I guess I fit the profile in other respects as well: male (of course), over 50 years of age, and being treated for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

A Question of Privacy
Wendy asked me to list the medications I was taking for my blood pressure and cholesterol problems, which leads me to ask some questions about protecting my privacy.

First: How’d They Get My Phone Number? And Who Said They Could Use It?

Second: How are the market researchers planning to use, disclose and protect my personal information they collect from me on the phone and through the interview?

The Men’’s Facts Web site includes this statement in its privacy policy:

““Bayer, GSK, and Schering-Plough and/or the companies we hire will use this information to comply with your request for information, to contact you in connection with the promotion of LEVITRA, to better understand your needs and how we can improve our products and services, or as otherwise disclosed to you on the Web page when you submit your information to us.”

Since I did not give them my phone number, but only my home address, they must have looked up my number in the phone book. Nevertheless, I did not give “Bayer, GSK, and Schering-Plough and/or the companies [they] hire”” permission to contact me by phone. Technically, therefore, they are in violation of their own privacy policy.

The research was carried on by an independent market research company, which I assume was under contract to GSK or Schering-Plough or Bayer or all three. That is, it was one of those companies that the privacy policy said the drug companies could hire to contact me.

Who’s privacy policy is in effect with regard to the market research? The company doing the research never mentioned or showed me any privacy policy at all. The Web site policy only pertains to the information I supply through the Web site, not any further information I provide in interviews with the companies they hire.

I’’ll have to contact the Customer Response Center at 1-888-825-5249 and see what they have to say about all this. When I learn more, so will you.

Not Your Father’s Marketing Campaign!
ED drug marketers are targeting men fitting the above profile in order to expand the market for their products. Here’s the message in Men’s Facts graphical format:

Added up, that’s 87 million men or 86% of all men in the U.S. over 18 years of age (according to the 2000 census numbers). Previously, ED drug marketers focused only on men over 40 years old, 40%-50% of whom suffer from ED to one degree or another according to the numbers cited on ED drug Web sites. By that reckoning, about 30 million men in the US suffer from ED (see ED Drug Sales Limp).

By switching tactics and focusing on men with diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, the marketers have effectively expanded the market for ED drugs three-fold!

Of course, like me, many men have two or more of these “ED risk factors,” so the total population would be lower than 87 million. And, although the graphic above implies that all of these men’s love lives are not what they used to be (ie, less than optimal), you’ll have to read other text in the kit to learn that only 58% of men with diabetes and 68% of men with high blood pressure experience “changes in erectile function.”

Nevertheless, ED drug marketers have set the stage to communicate with many more men than ever before. This is definitely NOT your father’s marketing campaign!

But reaching a larger target audience is only the first step. ED drug marketers are having problems with the second step — getting these men to take action. That’s what my interview in Philadelphia was all about.

So, on a hot Friday afternoon I found myself tooling down route 95 to Philadelphia in my BMW, which, in case you are wondering, I did NOT buy to compensate, to a one-on-one focus “group” interview.

I will talk more about that interview in tomorrow’s post to this blog. Please come back then.