According to Nielsen Media Research data quoted in a recent MM&M News Brief,Pfizer fell from its position as one of the nation’s top 10 advertisers as overall pharma industry ad spending slowed during the first half of 2005.

“Contributing to the overall decline in Pfizer spending was:

  • A 98 percent drop in ad spending on Pfizer’s painkiller Celebrex, brought about by safety questions concerning the COX-2 drug.
  • An 85 percent drop in spending on ads for Zoloft following safety questions surrounding a link between antidepressants and suicidal thoughts in young people.
  • A 43 percent reduction in spending on ads for Viagra following a call by the FDA for Pfizer to stop running television ads for the ED treatment last November.”

The cutback in Viagra TV ad spending may also have to do with comments from critics such as myself and Congressional leader Bill Frist who specifically cited problems with airing ED drugs ads during sporting events and at other times when children might be watching TV (see, for example, “Deconstructing Frist on DTC“).

An article in the Boston Globe reported that “advertising consultants and consumer advocates said it also could be due to a public backlash against companies that peddled erectile dysfunction drugs on television during the hours when children were watching and aggressive advertising that transformed Merck & Co.’s Vioxx into a blockbuster, despite the painkiller’s heart risks.”

On August 11, Pfizer promised to “Review the placement of our current advertising to ensure that it will be targeted to avoid audiences that are not age appropriate. For erectile dysfunction ads, this means that all TV ads will be aired during programs that have more than 90 percent adult viewership” (see “Pfizer DTC Pledge: ED is Litmus Test“).

I have not seen many Viagra ads on TV these days and it may be that Pfizer has cut these out entirely. At least I haven’t seen any Viagra ads on the after school ESPN show — a seemingly fertile ground for Cialis and Enzyte ads (see “After School Cialis Ads” for more on that).