I never liked using urinals and now I have more reason not to: something called “proximity marketing.”

An interesting example of this technique was highlighted in a recent post at Pharmalot. It seems that “the bathrooms at city hall in Bayonne, NJ, a working class town across the Hudson River from Manhattan, had framed notices and promotional brochures for Uroxtral, a drug for treating enlarged prostate that’s sold by Sanofi-Aventis.”

Ed Silverman goes on to note that Bayonne and the proximity marketing agency it rode in on (TSN Group) have agreed that city hall was the wrong place for this campaign and that the materials will be transferred to the Fourth Street Senior Center where “they would be more apt to be seen by seniors.”

The “photo” at the left shows what seniors may be seeing while pissing away their remaining hours at senior centers.

But a urinal-based proximty marketing campaign for a prostate drug is sure to fall on deaf ears — or should I say non-streaming penises. Men with enlarged prostates have problems getting a stream started and maintaining it — something they are not likely to want to call attention to by using a urinal. My guess is that they would prefer to pee while sitting, not standing.

Of course, I am being flippant. Enlarged prostate is a serious condition and the Bayonne campaign doesn’t involve branded urinal cakes — but, who knows, maybe I’ve given the TSN folks an idea for future campaigns!

But give me a break! Placing marketing materials for drugs like this in bathrooms! Sure the idea sounds good on paper. But I don’t think it will play in Bayonne! Besides, isn’t there enough crap in men’s rooms? Do we have to add marketing BS as well?

NOTE: What does Bayonne get from this deal? A measely $200 per year! At first I thought that was a typo, but it ain’t! Of course, it remains to be seen how many “eyeballs” Bayonne can deliver in order to calculate the CPMP (cost per million penises).

Proximity Marketing Today and Tomorrow
The TSN website defines proximity marketing as bringing “brands closer to consumers through programs that reach consumers in the context of their daily lives – in places where they shop, recreate, work out, socialize, and seek healthcare information.” [They should ad “where they sh*t and pee” to the list!]

The future of proximity marketing technology was showcased in the Speilberg film “The Minority Report.” Sensors in virtual billboards identified people as they walked by and displayed ads customized for that person. Of course, this was a world without privacy. Either that or Tom Cruise was stupid enough to “opt-in” and give away his personal information to an ad network.

CNN’s Bid for Pharma’s Proximity Marketing Dollars
But it’s not just boutique agencies like TSN that are getting into proximity marketing. CNN, for example, wants to put flat-screen TVs in doctors’ offices and beam in health-related and drug-sponsored programming featuring that beacon of objectivity: Dr. Gupta! [See ad at left. Click to enlarge.] Remember Gupta from his confrontation with Michael Moore (see “Moore’s Blitzer Krieg“)? He didn’t strike me as a credible source of health information!

According to the “Accent Health CNN” ad copy, which I found in this month’s Pharmaceutical Executive Magazine:

First, it defines what proximity marketing is all about:

“Just as it’s vital to reach your target at the right time, you’ve got to reach them at the right place, and in the proper state of mind.” [My emphasis added.]

Then, it tells you the benefits:

“In the trusted environment of their doctor’s office, our viewers are watching our health-related programming — and absorbing your health-related advertising.” [My emphasis added.]

I can imagine no better way to ruin the “trusted” environment of a doctor’s office than to bring in CNN, the most notorious untrustworthy source of news, and especially health news. Adding insult to injury, CNN obviously thinks patients are more like targets into which ad arrows are shot or sponges “absorbing” anything put in front of them rather than actual people who deserve unbiased information vetted by their physicians. The latter, to me, seems a much better approach to office-based “proximity marketing” by pharmaceutical companies.

I predict that Accent Health CNN eventually will join the junk heap populated by all the other technology-based in-office marketing initiatives, but not before the pharmaceutical industry spends a bundle on “pilot programs.” They are that desperate!

DTC Believability Scoring
BTW, the CNN ad claims that “50% of our viewers [find] your message more believable when they see it on AccentHealth than when they see it at home…” [That must mean 50% DO NOT find the messages more believable. But I digress…]

This stat is based on a Roper Public Affairs DTC “average believability score.” I am not sure how they measure this, but in this week’s Pharma Mmarketing Talk podcast (“Your DTC Ads Stink!“), I will be talking to Lee Weinblatt, an expert in measuring DTC effectiveness. He may have some insights about whether or not CNN’s viewer claims are believable. He won’t comment, however, on CNN’s believability.