On June 18, 2012, Pfizer launched “Get Old,” a multi-year initiative supported by nearly a dozen advocacy organizations. Why? According to Pfizer, it is part of Pfizer’s mission to improve the health and well-being of people at every stage of life,” not to mention that Pfizer — like many other drug companies — is actively working on drugs to treat Alzheimer’s Disease. That goal may indeed be a multi-year endeavor. Institutional investors doubt that treatments for Alzheimer’s disease being developed by Pfizer (and Lilly) will “achieve the main goals of their ongoing late-stage trials” (see “Survey shows dim faith in Lilly, Pfizer Alzheimer’s drugs“).

Clinical research doubts aside, Pfizer is obviously courting advocacy groups, which include Alzheimer’s Association, Easter Seals, International Longevity Center at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Men’s Health Network, National Alliance for Caregiving, National Black Nurses Association, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, National Consumers League, National Family Caregivers Association, Patient Advocate Foundation, Society for Women’s Health Research, Visiting Nurse Associations of America, and WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease. This kind of advocacy activity typically is part of prelaunch “marketing” campaigns.

At the center of the “Get Old” initiative is a “first-of-its-kind online
community,” GetOld.com, where people can “get and share
information, add to the dialogue and contribute to the growing
body of knowledge about this important topic,” according to the Pfizer press release (here).

Of course, being near the age of the target demographic for Alzheimer’s Disease, I decided to check out the web site. Here’s what the site looks like today (click on image for an enlarged view):

The site allows registered visitors — including me — to “Share your thoughts and experiences about getting old.” You can post links, videos, photos, or stories (including comments up to 1000 characters) to the site. You can even submit comments to other posts and “Like,” tweet, or email comments. Every comment submitted appears to be reviewed before being uploaded – a process that Pfizer says should be completed within 48 hours.

As usual, I tested the system – specifically the ability to upload a photo and submit comments. I decided to upload an old photo of myself when I was 22-25 years old and add some nice comment about what I may have been thinking at that age about growing old. When you “share thoughts” (i.e., create a “sticky”) you can check off how you currently feel about getting old: Optimistic (blue), Angry (red), Prepared (green), or Uneasy (orange). The posting boxes for Prepared and Uneasy are shown in the graphic below (click to enlarge to actual size):

My comment, for the record was: “This is me at about 22-25 years old. At the time, I did not worry about getting old because I was more worried I’d get killed in combat in Vietnam. Today, some young people have similar worries, but added to that, are worries about finding a job – even when they do come home from combat!”

Even if you do click on the above images to get full-sized views, you might have trouble reading what’s on the screen. This can be best illustrated in the “Thank You” box displayed after creating a “sticky”:

The above screen shot is ACTUAL SIZE. I don’t know about you, but I found this IMPOSSIBLE to read because the contrast is TOO LOW! I feel “Angry” about this and I am sure most people older and younger than I feel the same. Did Pfizer test this site with real people before launching? I seriously doubt it. If they did, they probably didn’t take the advice of their focus groups, but took the word of the interactive agency that created the site that it was “cool” with nice subtle colors!

UPDATE (20 Jul 2012): Yesterday, Pfizer announced at a conference in NYC that it relaunched the site with a number of improvements, including increasing the font size (somewhat). Pfizer also made some improvements in the contrast area, “where we had some challenges,” said Robert Libbey (@bob_libbey), Snr Dir, Global Colleague Communications, Pfizer. “We’re working on more improvements to draw more users in a user-friendly way,” said Libbey. The new “Thank You” screen shown below illustrates the improvements in readability:

Most of the “sticky” boxes currently on the site are blue or green (“Optimistic” or “Prepared,” respectively). That’s because they are mostly sticky stuff posted by Pfizer — including “Editorial Desk,” “Pfizer Colleague,” or one of the Pfizer partners mentioned above.

I did find a few posts that appear to come from ordinary people like “Desi1612,” supposedly a “prepared” 63-year old male. He said: “I am truly loving growing up, some say “finally”. I appreciate all I have done more and all I have much more. I do not worry about the future, what is – is, so bring it on and I will find a way to embrace and enjoy it” to which I responded with my own comment: “Thanks for sharing your thoughts.”

NOTE: The site also includes YouTube videos posted by Pfizer such as the one titled “I’m Older Than You” (find it here). It’s interesting that I can post comments to this video on the Pfizer “Get Old” site — where Pfizer can pre-moderate and block comments before they are uploaded — whereas I cannot post comments to the same video on Pfizer’s YouTube page where “Comments are disabled for this video.” Why would Pfizer allow comments on one “channel” and not the other? It is, I believe, possible to enable comment moderation for YouTube videos (see here, for example). Could it be that Pfizer does not have the FTEs to handle many comments likely to come through YouTube vs. the trickle of comments that come through its own Website?

Speaking of the colors to represent how people feel… I suppose this site is meant ONLY for U.S. audiences because colors are very culturally charged. Red, for example, may be an appropriate color to represent “Angry” for U.S. audiences, but for Asian people it means “happy happy happy!’ (hence, traditionally Asian women wear red wedding dresses). I’ve been told that there currently are more Chinese Internet users than U.S. users. Maybe Pfizer has different “Get Old” sites for different countries such as China or maybe the site is banned in China altogether!

There are components of Pfizr’s initiative other than the web site. Research Pfizer commissioned as part of the Get Old initiative asked more than 1,000 Americans (I guess it IS all abou US after all!), who are 18 to 65+ years old, about how they feel about getting old. See this infographic for a summary of some results of that survey.

UPDATE (1 July 2011): My post was accepted. In a field of greens and blues, my orange (“Uneasy”) sticky stands out!

UPDATE (6 July 2011): When looking for my post today, I couldn’t find it. I posted a notice to Pfizer’s GetOld FB page (here) and also Tweeted about it to @pfizer_news, who suggested I contact them by email at GetOldInfo@pfizer.com. Within a couple of hours, I got a response:

Hi John:
Thank you for contacting us! While we do not delete posts, the content presented in the “jumble view” is determined by date-submitted – so as time goes by any given post is less likely to appear as new submissions are being received daily. We have provided the steps for viewing your sticky below. We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience.
Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.
Kind regards,
The Get Old web team

I followed the instructions and was able to find my post. Essentially, you have to log in, select your age and gender, and then enter your screen name in the search box. I guess I got my 15 minutes of fame. Who can ask for more than that? I apologize for wasting Pfizer’s time on such trivia, but it’s good to know that there is someone behind the scenes helping.