It’s been a difficult year for the drug industry -as far as reputations go.
Pharmaceutical giants and small biotechnology companies have been scrutinized for the way they price new, life-saving drugs, how they jack up prices on old drugs, and even for striking deals aimed at avoiding US taxes.
Now, Pfizer is making an effort to turn things around with a new ad campaign highlighting the science behind its products.
“Before it became a medicine, it was an idea, an inspiration, a wild what if,” the first commercial in the campaign, which aired on Monday, starts.
The ad doesn’t get into the specifics of any specific disease or drug, but the voiceover ends with a scene with a dad telling his son how he was saved by the medicine. All of the scientists featured in the ad work for Pfizer, and the idea is to give patients a way to connect their medications to the people who develop them.
“When I’m talking to people in my family, or even physicians that I know and work with, colleagues outside of the industry, and even me before I got into the industry just had no idea of all that goes into it,” Pfizer’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall told Business Insider.
Pfizer has its work cut out for it. In a recent study by the Reputation Institute it had the lowest reputational ranking – based on perceptions of everything from their products to citizenship. It’s perhaps not a huge surprise given that Pfizer was last in the news for its foiled efforts to relocate its tax-base outside of the US.
The pharmaceutical industry “thinks everyone is out is out to get them,” Kasper Ulf Nielsen, an executive partner at the Reputation Institute told Business Insider. “They’re afraid to communicate and engage. People are asking who’s behind the drugs.”
Pfizer’s not alone in this effort to turn the story around. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), the industry’s largest trade group, is ramping up spending to lobby Washington, including on an ad campaign aimed at lawmakers to show how the industry advances research and development for new medical treatments.
Pfizer, though, has one of the most recognizable brands in the Reputation Institute’s study, and a campaign like this is aimed directly at consumers.
“I hope the more information we provide, the transparency we have, the interactions that we seek that those experiences with us as an industry will improve the overall view of what we do,” Lewis-Hall said.
Pfizer is also releasing mini documentaries, a little more than two minutes in length, that feature individual scientists and patients. The first of the series features Bob Abraham, Pfizer’s senior vice president and group head of oncology, and Matt Hiznay, who as a medical school student was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
Hiznay, who is now in remission, went in to meet the Pfizer scientists who had developed the drug that helped get him there. “To meet people that have been there since the beginning and to shake their hand and look them in the eye, and say ‘thank you,’ it’s even hard to describe that I’m here and able to do it. Years of research went into it and it’s giving me years back now,” he explains.
Watch the whole ad here: