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Pharma Celebrity Spokespeople

Posted Oct 28 2008 9:56pm
In the past, pharma companies have loved their celebrity spokespeople. It seems like every company has used celebrities to promote the brand or the medical condition.

We’ve seen campaigns for—
  • Joan Lunden started it all in 1998 for Claritin (branded)
  • Kathleen Turner for Wyeth and Amgen’s rheumatoid arthritis campaign (unbranded)
  • Cal Ripken for Merck’s Prinivil (branded)
  • Terrell Davis for Valeant’s Migranal
  • John Elway for TAP Pharmaceutical’s Prevacid (branded)
  • Ricky Williams for GSK’s Paxil (branded)
  • Terry Bradshaw for GSK’s Paxil (branded)
  • Alonzo Mourning for Johnson & Johnson’s Procrit (branded)
  • Rafael Palmeiro for Pfizer’s Viagra (branded)
  • Bob Dole for Pfizer’s Viagra (branded)
  • Olympia Dukakis for Novartis’ osteoporosis awareness campaign (unbranded)
  • Dorothy Hamill for Merck’s Vioxx (branded)
  • Danny Glover for Amgen’s anemia campaign (unbranded)
  • Rob Lowe for Amgen’s neutropia/chemotherapy campaign (unbranded)
  • Montel Williams for Teva Pharmaceuticals Copaxone (branded)
  • Della Reese for GlaxoSmithKline’s Avandia (branded)
  • Lauren Hutton for Wyeth’s HRT franchise (unbranded)
  • Ty Pennington for Shire’s Adderall (branded)
  • Jennie Garth for GSK’s Imitrex (branded)
  • Janine Turner for Allergan’s chronic dry-eye campaign (unbranded Restasis campaign)
  • Lorraine Bracco for Pfizer’s antidepressant franchise/Zoloft
  • Linda Dano for Eli Lilly’s antidepression campaign (unbranded)
  • Holly Marie Combs for Johnson & Johnson’s Ortho McNeil contraceptives (unbranded)
  • And Sally Field is currently pushing Roche’s Boniva (branded)
If anyone has any other celebrity spokespeople, feel free to leave a comment. I would be interested in seeing a comprehensive list.

There has been considerable criticism of whether and how much celebrities get paid for this work. In an Salon.com article, Barry Greenberg who runs a Hollywood firm recruiting celebs for drug companies has said, “Maybe Katie Couric wasn't being paid to have a hose shoved up her ass, but the rest of the stars, they're getting something.” It is worth noting that in many cases, the celebrities have donated all of their compensation to a charity.

In an undated whitepaper on the Ogilvy PR website, Bob Brody makes the point that celebrity spokespeople are still valuable (Ogilvy PR has conducted celebrity PR campaigns for pharmaceutical companies). Flip to the back of PR Week magazine and you’ll find ads for companies that can land you the celebrity of your dreams for your campaign. A celebrity still has the pull to make people pay attention. But, in this era of “pharma can do no right,” is aligning with a celebrity a smart strategy?

I disagree with Bob that celebrity campaigns are as effective as they have been in the past. His paper does not note what percentage of the media coverage of these celebrity campaigns is actually negative (especially in recent years). However, I do agree with Brody that these campaigns will not go away anytime soon.
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