Thursday, May 31, 2007

GSK, BMS, J&J top ethical ranking list by Covalence

GSK, BMS, J&J top ethical ranking list by Covalence

GlaxoSmithKline is at the top of ethical-monitoring firm Covalence's ranking list, followed by Bristol-Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson. The quarterly report, which ranks the top 10 highest-ranking pharmas, reveals that the amount of revenue a company earns does not necessarily correspond to its ethical reputation. Pfizer, the world's highest revenue-generating drug company, only placed fourth on the ethical table, whereas the next highest earner, Sanofi-Aventis barely made it into the ethical top 10, as did Merck & Co, which is sixth-largest in terms of revenue. Fourth-largest revenue generator AstraZeneca and tenth revenue ranking Wyeth did not make the top 10 ethical list. GSK ranked third in earnings and first on the ethical list. Abbott Laboratories and Boehringer Ingelheim didn't make the top 10 revenue list, but they did make the top 10 ethical list. Go to Covalence <>  for the full survey.

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AMA, Sermo alliance meets with criticism from bloggers

AMA, Sermo alliance meets with criticism from bloggers

The American Medical Association (AMA) has entered into a two-year partnership with Sermo (ePharm5, 4/12/07), the online community created by physicians, for physicians, that charges investment firms to view postings. The AMA/Sermo partnership has met with criticism from bloggers, who say it shouldn't be in the business of promoting a forum with the intent of selling the postings to Wall Street firms. Also, physicians and PhRMA have doubts about the actual value of the forum dialogues. The AMA hopes the partnership will allow its members, who increasingly are practicing alone or in small physician offices, to quickly share advice and opinions on various topics. In addition, the deal will allow the AMA to survey Sermo members on popular topics. Sermo has registered more than 15,000 physicians at a growth rate of more than 600 physicians per week, it reports. Physicians nationwide spent more than 6,000 hours on the site sharing observations from their practices and exchanging medical insights and viewed nearly 1 million pages in March alone.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

DIY Causes Get the Soapbox with New Facebook Tool

DIY Causes Get the Soapbox with New Facebook Tool

Online social activist group Project Agape will launch a limited version tool on Facebook, according to GigaOM.

Dubbed Causes for Facebook, it integrate into the social network and allow users to build and grow a cause through viral invites. Causes can then call upon members for monetary support.

Project Agape is just one of the developers let in Facebook's back door as it tries to build a Social OS. Other developers, like mobile startup Tiny Pictures, are also embracing the opportunity to reach the 23 million-strong community.

The Internet and social causes have been consistent bedfellows since broadband penetration began to climb. According to Pew Research, 52 million Americans use the Web to research policy issues and 38 million have sent an email to government officials trying to change policies.

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Are Ad Agencies Still Relevant?

Are Ad Agencies Still Relevant?

 WHAT USED TO BE CREATED by an ad agency's writers and art directors -- engagement in the commercial message -- is now, according to the networks, the networks' responsibility. At least that's what they were claiming at this year's upfront -- each one selling advertisers on how their programs are better at engaging viewers in the commercials.

Listen to the networks and you would think that the commercial itself -- how it's written, art directed, produced, its emotional content -- is of little consequence to whether people watch or not.

To agency creative types, this can only be good news. After all, they now have a job where they get paid very well and are accountable for very little.

It also must be great news for companies like Spot Runner. After all, if the emotional element is no longer relevant, then the $500 commercials that Spot Runner can assemble in five minutes on a computer will likely become more popular.

As will five-second commercials. Or, even better, one-second commercials. The networks are now proclaiming that the shorter the commercial, the less likely people are to fast-forward through it. Difficult to argue with that. After all, most of us can't find the remote in one second, much less push the fast-forward button.

But it's also difficult to argue that a one-second commercial will do much in the way of establishing an emotional connection with a brand.

The question is, are emotional connections still relevant? And, if not, are agencies still relevant?

The only reason ad agencies exist is to add an emotional hook to a selling proposition. Anyone can analyze a marketing problem. Anyone can strategize. Anyone with just a little information can define a target market. An advertiser does not need an ad agency for that.

What an advertiser does need an ad agency for is to be able to condense all this information down, along with the relatively unimportant claims that clients want said about their products, and add the emotional element that will somehow engage people enough to make them watch. And, hopefully, persuade them to buy.

Tough enough to do in 30 seconds. Impossible to do in one.

So the fact that agencies have apparently abdicated engagement to the networks is indeed quite puzzling. After all, what they are potentially abdicating is their reason for being. You would think that at least one agency would have enough faith in its creative ability to say, "Hold on CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, but this engagement thing, that's what we do. We're accountable for it -- not you." And yet, we have heard little along the lines of such rebuttal.

What we have heard ad agencies talking about is technology rather than creativity. About bottom lines rather than storylines. About digitally engaging people in more places, rather than emotionally engaging them in one.

At this year's upfront, buyers and sellers have been relentlessly debating how best to invest billions in television. And while television has changed tremendously, it remains nothing more than an opportunity to speak to someone.

Whether that opportunity becomes engaging or not can only be determined later.

Engagement is a shift that happens within a viewer, triggered by some sort of emotional stimulus. Yes, the networks are right in saying that people first have to be exposed to the message to be engaged in it. But exposure and engagement serve two very different functions. And are created by two very different companies.

Or, at least, that used to be the case.

But as agencies buy ad-serving companies (WPP/Real Media) and advertisers buy agencies (Microsoft/Avenue A/Razorfish), we seem to have become an industry that has lost its focus. And, perhaps in the process, taken our eyes off the consumer.

Should we really be so surprised that they, in turn, have taken their eyes off us?

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Digicorp Inserts Ads Into Media Files, And Follows Them Everywhere

Digicorp Inserts Ads Into Media Files, And Follows Them Everywhere
by Les Luchter, Tuesday, May 29, 2007 6:00 AM ET
PUTTING A NEW TWIST INTO the hot category of in-stream advertising, Digicorp, Inc. has launched a service that can insert display ads into audio or video files, and follow those ads as they travel around the Internet--even through peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing.

With audio files, display ads take up the whole player screen, while video files use banners at the top or bottom of the screen.

Digicorp CEO Jay Rifkin, noting that P2P still accounts for 60% of all Web traffic, said the first "publisher" to sign an ad-sharing deal on the music side is 1720 Entertainment, whose conventional CDs are distributed by Vivendi's Universal Music Group. Rifkin said the label will provide free tracks for several artists, including Elvis White and Rissi Palmer, through such sites as iTunes, LimeWire and BitTorrent.

The tracks will use Digicorp's patent-pending ViraCast technology that dynamically inserts and updates contextual, geo-specific, interactive display ads into either video or audio files. The files can be emailed, embedded in Web pages, delivered as podcasts or distributed by P2P sites, while ViraCast continuously tracks downloads, click-throughs and impressions. Ads are constantly served to the media files, so the more they are shared and viewed, the more revenue they generate.

Music labels, for example, can now "get ad revenue from what used to be just a marketing campaign that cost them money," said Rifkin. ViraCast audio files can be downloaded and passed on, but cannot be transferred onto iPods or mp3 players, thus also helping the labels by encouraging consumers to pay for legal downloads sans ads, or even CDs.

"Each media file is like a traveling Web site," explained Rifkin, comparing the process to how other firms track ad info from individual Web sites. "We apply the same principles to an actual media file."

Content owners, he said, can log on to Digicorp's site, and upload their audio or video file to have it quickly converted into a fully trackable, ready-to-launch, e-commerce-enabled file.

Rifkin said Digicorp has affiliated with a number of large advertising aggregators, so that thousands of ad possibilities are already available, and they can be matched up with genre and keywords from the content, or based on users' location. Ads can change every 20 seconds, and even on the fly, all with real-time tracking.

The firm is also talking with large advertisers and agencies. Indeed, the ViraCast technology was first used earlier this year in video podcast projects from Mediaedge:cia for its clients Jaguar and Land Rover. The informational videos included banner ads that users could click on for more info on the brands.

In addition Rifkin revealed that Digicorp has been talking with companies like about monetizing their podcasts, such as BusinessWeek's Cutting Edge, by sharing ad revenues.

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April Searches Up 11% From 2006: comScore

April Searches Up 11% From 2006: comScore
by Tameka Kee, Tuesday, May 29, 2007 6:00 AM ET
AMERICANS CONDUCTED SOME 7.3 BILLION search queries in April, according to comScore--an 11% rise from the same month last year.

Users searched using Google almost half the time (49.7%), followed by Yahoo with 26.8%, and Microsoft with 10.3%. While Yahoo, Microsoft, Ask, and Time Warner all saw their search shares slip incrementally from March to April, Google's share rose 1.4%.

In the past month, industry speculation increased about Google's commitment to its mainstay search offering in light of the company's forays into various other online and offline projects. But that talk has been tempered by a number of recent enhancements--from universal search, to cross-language search, to personalized search--that aim to improve the search experience with regard to ease of use and relevancy.

But what about Yahoo and its Panama platform? Although in an earnings call earlier this year, Yahoo had forecast the new algorithm to deliver less of an ROI than initially expected, CEO Terry Semel mentioned that Panama did help the company "significantly increase its lead in search share in Yahoo Japan and Taiwan."

Perhaps content to attack search in the U.S. from another angle, Yahoo moved forward with its mobile offering, oneSearch, which allows users to get targeted, localized search results right in their phones. Yahoo claims to have added 1.5 million new users to its Yahoo Go mobile platform, presumably making it the leading mobile brand--and mobile search provider--in the country.

Microsoft remains a distant third with traditional search, although the company has launched a Live Search offering for Windows Mobile that incorporates category-based local searching, maps and traffic information.

Analysts are watching to see whether IAC's Ask, with its recently launched barrage of out-of-home and TV ads touting its new algorithm, can increase its share of search (from 5.1%) in the coming months. Addressing the Goldman Sachs Internet Conference last week, IAC Chairman and CEO Barry Diller said the campaign will ratchet up considerably in June and July.

Tameka Kee can be reached at

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Marketers Try Online Video Platform to Maximize TV ROI

Marketers Try Online Video Platform to Maximize TV ROI
by Tameka Kee, Tuesday, May 29, 2007 6:00 AM ET
COCA-COLA AND MAYBELLINE ARE AMONG the advertisers that are partnering with online marketing firm BrandPort to test a video platform that gives consumers an incentive to watch online the ads they may skip viewing programs using a DVR.

According to Nielsen, in households that have a DVR, 50% of commercials are skipped during program playback.

"Technology is making it easier for consumers to block and skip ads," said Kivin Varghese, BrandPort's CEO. "So brands need to give their desired audience a reason to spend quality time with their message. We need to give increasing value to consumers for their time and attention."

In the BrandPort Sweepstakes program, consumers can win prizes that range from retail gift cards and Nintendo Wiis to all-expense paid vacations and cars for watching 15- or 30-second TV spots and answering one or two questions afterward.

After registering basic demographic info such as name, age, gender and mailing address on the landing page, consumers set up an account and view up to 20 ads per week, earning points they can redeem for prizes directly or count as entries in a weekly sweepstakes.

Advertisers can meet consumers on a number of levels with the program--by repurposing their TV spots for direct viewing, by sponsoring specific prizes, or by hosting a version of the platform on their own site.

Brands such as Coca-Cola and Maybelline have already partnered with the company for brand awareness testing using the BrandPort Insights platform. Given online video's core 18- to-34-year-old demographic, Varghese feels that "although it fits well with anybody that advertises on TV," the platform would especially benefit the auto, financial services and CPG industries.

Varghese adds that the BrandPort Sweepstakes offers advertisers a new level of accountability, as the cpm-based program delivers "proof of an actual consumer interaction, not just the idea of an impression."

Tameka Kee can be reached at

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Innerstate: A Correction and Further Criticisms

Innerstate: A Correction and Further Criticisms

Monday, May 21, 2007, 4:40:30 PM | John Mack

This morning, I posted an item about Centocor's documentary INNERSTATE and reported that SEIU Local 32BJ filed a lawsuit against J&J claiming that the company used pricing and marketing practices that lead to excessive reimbursements by Medicare, private insurers, and patients. (see "The Innerstate DVD. Is TV Next?"). I also implied that Centocor "hid" this fact and referred to a Local 32BJ protest at a screening of INNERSTATE as merely a labor issue.

I'd like to make some corrections and also add a bit to the story.

First, a spokesperson for the union wrote me an email and clarified who initated the law suit:
"I write to correct today's entry, which says SEIU Local 32BJ filed a lawsuit against J&J. The plantiffs in the case include the federal government, various states, and other entities, but NOT Local 32BJ. We just reported on it based on court filings."
Michael Parks, Centocor's Director of Public Relations, and Executive Producer of INNERSTATE, made this further clarification:
John, always enjoy reading your posts and I personally appreciate your diligence in seeing a topic through.

That said I want to take an opportunity to clarify some of the statements made in your most recent post.

We have been sending out free DVD’s since the premiere in New York City to anyone who requests a copy. As you know, this film had a limited release and will only be screened in 14 cities. Therefore, we felt it was important that we made the film readily available by DVD for the majority of people who lived beyond the area of the screenings and for those who simply could not attend.

With respect to your question about InnerState appearing on TV, I regret to inform you that we have no plans to take it to take it there.

Regarding your “protest”, it is important that you understand the full picture before jumping to conclusions. As you know, the pharmaceutical industry must adhere to very rigorous regulatory standards that have been put in place by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Adherence to these standards is something Centocor takes very seriously and we go to great lengths to ensure it is done properly. InnerState is no exception. These standards are often open to interpretation by regulators and they can apply these standards in a way that is not obvious to the general public. In order to fully disclose our role in the film and to ensure that we are delivering a very responsible and fair public health message, we made the decision to include the statements by Dr. Schaible and to include the Medication Guide for REMICADE in the DVD packaging. The Medication Guide is a risk management document for patients and is mandated by FDA regulation. A substantial majority of the information you describe discusses appropriate risk information and encourages viewers to have informed conversations with their doctors.

Lastly, you are correct that Service Employee International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ demonstrated at the King of Prussia screening of InnerState. However, SEIU has not filed suit against Centocor or its parent company and demonstrations remain related to a labor issue with one of Centocor’s third party contractors. SEIU states on their own fliers “SEIU Local 32BJ has a dispute with [named company, not Centocor] and no other employer”. As I stated to you before, Centocor cannot and will not take a position on this matter.

I hope this offers some context around the issues you raise in your post.
I regret the confusion I may have caused.

Regarding the Medication Guide in the DVD package, I will take Mr. Parks at his word when he says Centocor included it to "fully disclose our role in the film and to ensure that we are delivering a very responsible and fair public health message." Certainly, they are not hiding the fact that Remicade is the "biologic therapy" in quetion. The main point is that the circle connecting the unbranded movie to the branded message is now closed.

Since the DVD was released at the same time the movie came out, I suppose my little analogy with Hollywood films is now null and void! The fact that the movie will NOT make it to TV puts more holes in the analogy. O well!

SEIU Local 32BJ Protests INNERSTATE to FDA and PhRMA
But Local 32BJ still protests INNERSTATE and has sent letters to the FDA and PhRMA complaining that Centocor is violating PhRMA's Guiding Principles on DTC advertising. I reproduce the bulk of that letter here:
May 21, 2007
PhRMA Office of Accountability
950 F Street, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20004

VIA FASCIMILE: (202) 775-0258

Dear Sir or Madam:

We write to express our dismay at the release and marketing of Centocor’s movie, Innerstate, which features individuals with conditions treated by the company’s drug, Remicade. Centocor is a subsidiary of PhRMA member Johnson & Johnson ("J&J"). While Centocor labels Innerstate a documentary, Remicade's dominant market position and materials distributed at Innerstate screenings suggest that the movie serves as a promotional vehicle for the company’s product. In light of this, we believe PhRMA should investigate whether J&J has violated the Guiding Principles on direct-to-consumer ("DTC") marketing to which PhRMA members have agreed, and take appropriate action.

Innerstate as DTC advertising
PhRMA’s guidelines on DTC advertising are aimed at television and print advertising. DTC television advertising is defined in the guidelines as "a portion of television air time on broadcast or cable television that is bought by a company for the purpose of presenting information about one or more of the company’s medicines." Although Innerstate has so far only been shown in movie theaters, we believe the spirit of the guidelines should cover such a project, whose screenings are paid for by Centocor and which will also be released on DVD. Indeed, one reason the PhRMA guidelines do not explicitly cover movies may be that their authors never envisioned the existence of a film like Innerstate. According to the New York Times, industry experts "could remember no other documentary conceived of and financed start-to-finish by a drug maker."

Another criterion for DTC advertising is the presentation of medication information. While Innerstate does not specifically mention Remicade or Centocor, Centocor distributed a Viewer’s Guide to the film at its King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, screening on April 28, 2007 that did. The Viewer's Guide profiles the three patients featured in the film, and states in each profile that the patient was treated with Remicade. Following the patient profiles is an essay titled "A Message from Centocor" by the company’s Vice President of Medical Affairs, which reveals that Centocor makes Remicade, and discusses many of the drug’s possible side effects. Centocor also included the entire Medication Guide for Remicade in the booklet.

No other biotech drug was mentioned in the Viewer’s Guide.

At the screening, Centocor also distributed a survey form with an offer for a DVD of Innerstate. The fine print gives Centocor and other Johnson & Johnson affiliates the right to send to survey participants information about their products "and the conditions they are approved to treat," as well as experiences of patients treated by those products. Centocor did not offer to provide information on competing drugs or treatments.

It is important to note that there is no other way to watch the movie at this time than to attend a Centocor-sponsored screening, and the DVD is available only to attendees after talking to a member of the event staff.

In light of the above, SEIU Local 32BJ believes that the Viewer's Guide and survey form distributed at the Innerstate screening constitute DTC print advertisements, and the movie a DTC broadcast advertisement. We do not appear to be alone in this view. The New York Times called the movie "an unusual form of soft-pedal marketing of a blockbuster drug, Remicade." The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that "even without naming Remicade, Centocor stands to gain from increased disease-awareness because, as the market leader, it tends to capture most new prescriptions."

Centocor would have us believe that it aims "to elevate the voices, stories and successes of patients, as well as to broaden awareness of immune-related diseases." But the promotional materials given at the screenings suggest an ulterior motive. Dr. Jerry Avorn, a Harvard Medical school professor and author of Powerful Medicines, commented that Innerstate "is a whole new dimension in direct-to-consumer advertising. What makes me edgy about it is if it is going to be a commercial, you should know it’s a commercial. I’m very troubled by the blurring of the lines between advertising and patient education."

PhRMA’s Guidelines as Applied to Innerstate
Since Innerstate is clearly, in our view, a DTC advertisement, Centocor should follow PhRMA’s Guiding Principles on such advertisements. But Centocor appears to have violated several of the guidelines.

Principles #3 and #4 ask companies to educate consumers about the medicine being advertised, and to indicate if it is a prescription drug. Innerstate, by contrast, does not mention the name of the drug, and even the name of the film’s producer, Centocor, is not revealed until the last line of the credits.

PhRMA should also investigate whether Centocor has complied with
Principle #2 on presenting a "balance of risks and benefits" about the advertised drug;
Principle #11, that "risks and safety information .. should be presented in clear, understandable language, without distraction from the content"; and
Principle #15, on providing information "about help for the uninsured and underinsured."

[Some stuff about prior history omitted; you can read the entire letter here.]

We ask that PhRMA thoroughly investigate Innerstate and Centocor’s marketing of the movie, and pursue all appropriate remedies that address the practices of its member Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Centocor.
Good luck with that! First, PhRMA's Office of Accountability has not been very effective in enforcing its DTC Guidelines (for more on that, see "Adventures of PhRMA Intern!").

I wasn't at the King of Prussia showing of INNERSTATE and I cannot verify that the Medication Guide I received with the DVD is the same as the Viewer's Guide mentioned in the Local 32BJ letter to PhRMA. All I can say is that if the two are the same, then the movie should be considered part of a branded campaign. If so, Centocor did include enogh information about side effects, etc. to comply with FDA regulations and PhRMA DTC Guidelines.

The question is NOT did Centocor violate FDA or PhRMA Guidelines. Rather, should INNERSTATE be considered branded or unbranded promotion?
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INNERSTATE: Is it DTC Advertising?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007
'Round the Sphere: Moore (sic) Movies
INNERSTATE: Is it DTC Advertising?
SiCKO wasn't the only movie on pharma bloggers's minds this week. Centocor's 58-minute disease awareness documentary INNERSTATE was also a hot topic in the Sphere.
After finally seeing the movie, Pharm Aid was enthusiastic about it:

"Johnson & Johnson has a long history these kind of broader issues-based campaigns. Since the J&J product, Remicade, is never mentioned in the film and no treatment option is pushed (contrary to Avorn’s comments that this is a “commercial”), it’s not clear if J&J is thinking of InnerState as an issues campaign or if this is more traditional product push."
Unfortunately, as I pointed out on Pharma Marketing Blog and as Ed Silverman pointed out on Pharmalot, INNERSTATE may actually be a commercial. True, the movie itself never mentions Remicade (Centocor's product), but, according to evidence submitted to me by SEIU Local 32BJ, Remicade product information -- a medication guide -- was distributed at a showing of the movie in the King of Prussia Mall in PA in April. I also received the INNERSTATE DVD in the mail containing this product information along with the movie. IMHO, this makes the entire campaign a DTC promotion rather than an unbranded disease awareness campaign, which is how it has been generally described in the press and on other blogs.
Of course, SEIU Local 32BJ has a bone to pick with J&J and has sent letters to FDA and PhRMA claiming that Centocor is in violation of FDA regulations and PhRMA DTC guidelines. However, as I explained to the union's representative, I do not believe Centocor is in violation because it included all the necessary fair balance information.
Anyway, you can find all sides of the story here, including a lengthy statement from Michael Parks, Centocor's Director of Public Relations, and Executive Producer of INNERSTATE. This level of engagement with bloggers is unprecedented and earns Centocor kudos from me.
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