P&G’s OTC Prilosec marketers are doing something you’ll never see an Rx product marketer do: sponsor a Bunco tournament. Bunco, for those of you who do not know, is a dice game that “likely began in the U.S. during the Gold Rush, when swindlers came to San Francisco with the fast-paced game, then played with dice or cards, to con laborers out of their money. Bunco parlors eventually formed, leading to the use of the word “bunco” as a synonym for financial scams” (see “An Old Dice Game Catches On Again, Pushed by P&G“).

Here are some synonyms from Thesaurus.com for bunco as in “bunco artist”: bilker, cheater, clip artist, con man, crook, deceiver, fleecer, flimflammer, fraud, hoser, hustler, mountebank, scam artist, scammer, shark, sharpie, smoothie, swindler. I’ve already explored the link between marketers and bullshit artists (see “Is Pharmaceutical Marketing BS?“). Now I can add bunco artist to the list. That label is a bit more sinister than BS artist. BS, after all, is not against the law, whereas bunco schemes are (hence, the police “bunco squads” of yore).

These days, bunco is played mostly by middle-aged suburban women who like Nascar, camping in RVs, traveling by Greyhound, and listening to country music. They also like tailgate parties at NFL games — so look for Prilosec ads during the Superbowl game. I know this because P&G has done it’s research, according to the WSJ article cited above:

“It’s a natural fit for Prilosec OTC, whose ads have long focused on a certain core consumer: the middle-aged woman who loves to socialize.

[Sorry, I couldn’t find a more representative image of a “bunco babe” to show you. You’ll just have to settle for this “babe.” I note that marketers often focus their ads on a younger demographic.]

“That’s where her passion — and her heartburn — lie,” says Mauricio Troncoso, Prilosec OTC’s marketing director. P&G figures that 70% of frequent-heartburn sufferers are women.

“P&G studies this consumer so closely that it has a name for her: Joanne. And in order to observe her in her natural habitat, P&G urges everyone who works with the brand to participate in activities Joanne enjoys.

“Studying Joanne has led Prilosec OTC marketers to attend Nascar races, camp in RVs, travel by Greyhound, listen to country music and tailgate at NFL games.”

Now that’s a passion for the consumer of your product you’d NEVER see a brand Rx marketer have. Imagine, if you will, Pfizer marketers living in the shoes of a middle-aged man suffering from erectile dysfunction! Won’t happen. First of all, Pfizer thinks these men are devilish scamps that accompany their women into lingerie shops.

I can think of a couple of other reasons why you wouldn’t see this sort of marketing from Rx folks.

P&G is sponsoring bunco tournaments around the nation, including a “Bunco World Tour” with a tournament in Kansas City, Mo., “attended by 135 players. P&G had a pharmacist on hand to answer questions about heartburn and pass out samples of Prilosec OTC.”

I don’t suppose you can hand out free samples of Rx products like you can with OTC products like Prilosec (they used a pharmacist just for show, I imagine).

P&G is branding everything in its tour with the Prilosec logo and benefit statements as exemplified in its “Bunco Central Scoresheet,” the bottom portion of which is shown below:

What’s missing is any information about side effects. Inclusion of this information, of course, would be necessary if Prilosec were still an Rx product regulated by the FDA. But it’s not and FDA cannot insist that the side effect information be clearly visible on the scorecard, which would defeat the whole idea, wouldn’t it? And you can’t put this stuff on the back of the card either as Daiichi has learned with its Evoxac calendars (see “Nice try, Daiichi!“).

Too bad Rx marketers can not be as clever and gimmicky as the P&G Prilosec OTC drug marketers. But then they’d be bunco artists rather than just bullshit artists.