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Novo Nordisk Suspends Paula Deen Contract; What Value Does She Add?

Posted Jul 01 2013 12:00am

For those of you who may have missed this news, celebrity chef Paula Deen has gotten into some hot water with some of the companies that pay her for celebrity endorsements (see: Diabetes Drug Maker Suspends Deal With Deen ). One of these companies is pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk. Here are some more of the details:

The celebrity chef Paula Deen has run into trouble with another major corporate partner: the Danish pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk said on Thursday that it would suspend its relationship in the wake of her admission that she used racist language in the past. Novo Nordisk, which makes the diabetes drug Victoza, has suspended its multimillion dollar endorsement deal with Ms. Deen....But the suspended partnership with the drug maker is perhaps her biggest setback of all: the undoing of a lucrative endorsement deal that generated her first scandal. Ms. Deen, 66, has been the public face of the company’s diabetes medication Victoza since January 2012, when she simultaneously announced that she had Type 2 diabetes and endorsed the drug. The timing set off a storm of criticism that Ms. Deen ...had misled her fans and acted opportunistically because she had received the diagnosis several years earlier. Ms. Deen was paid $6 million for a two-year contract to promote Victoza, said a person who was involved in the deal....Novo Nordisk, which has the top-selling portfolio of diabetes drugs in the United States, has long made special efforts to reach blacks through marketing efforts and medical sponsorships. Amy Doner, president of the Amy Doner Group, which brokers deals between celebrities and pharmaceutical companies, said the fact that the company had left open the possibility of resuming its relationship with Ms. Deen indicated that she had been an effective spokeswoman. Ms. Doner, who was not involved in the deal between Ms. Deen and Novo Nordisk, said she would not be surprised if the campaign resumed at some point.“America loves a comeback,” she said. “She has admitted her mistake.”

In general, I do not believe in the concept of direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising for prescription drugs (see: Effectiveness of "Direct-to-Consumer" Drug Advertisements ; I t's Time for the FDA to Prohibit Direct-to-Consumer Advertising by Pharmaceutical Companies ). I also don't quite understand the concept of celebrity sponsorship of prescription drugs. What exactly is going on in the minds of the people who are influenced by this type of advertising. "I like Paula Deen. She feels like a friend. Therefore, if she endorses Victoza, it must be a great drug and will help me to control my diabetes."

There is no doubt in my mind that the pharmaceutical companies know that DTC advertising sells drugs and that the Paula Deen fans, at least previously, were positively affected by her endorsement of Victoza. The final kicker in this news item is the comment that Novo Nordisk has left open the possibility of contracting for her services at some later time to advertise the drug. "America loves a comeback. She has admitted her mistake.” In short, her missteps may make her even more desirable as a Novo Nordisk spokesperson at some later time.

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