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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Lessons Learned from Pfizer: Choose A Spokesperson Carefully

Having a spokesperson for your business is only a good idea if the spokesperson truly represents your message. Using a celebrity either of the hollywood or ground-breaking kind can really give your product or service a boost. But when the chosen spokesperson is scrutinized for not being all that your company purports, your company receives unintended negative attention.

That is what happened to Pfizer recently when its commercials featuring Robert Jarvik were scrutized for offering "misimpressions." You might remember Jarvik as the pioneer behind the artificial heart. In Pfizer commericals for Lipitor, Jarvik refers to himself as a physician. It is that reference that is under scrutiny.

You see Jarvik is not a practicing physician - anywhere at this time. I have seen the television commericals featuring Jarvik (prior to the scrutiny) and I wondered whether he was still a practicing physician myself. You see I remember all of the hubbub over the artificial heart and I know for a fact that I was just a little girl. It was at least 28 years ago. So when I saw the commerical for the first time, I said to myself "is this guy really still a doctor?" Obviously, that same thought came to the minds of the Federal Drug Administration officials - hence the removal of the ad campaign.

So Pfizer has now pulled all of the ads featuring Jarvik. But I wonder who were the marketing and advertising executives that thought it was okay to have a non-practicing physician reference being a doctor or physcian in an advertisement? Had someone on the advertising team (external or internal) raised their hand and asked "Can we have Jarvik reference being a physician even though he is currently not?" I would not be writing about this topic. But alas, I am because someone on Pfizer's team failed to do their due diligence on the matter. Just think, if he had only referenced his experience in the medical field rather than calling himself a physician these ads would have been fine and still effective. Who would lik

The lesson here is to choose your celebrity carefully and conduct due diligence. Yes, it might be nice to have a local celebrity represent your car dealership in ads and commercials, but it will do your business no good if that same celebrity has a record of DUI's and perhaps one of them driving one of your cars.

Do your business and yourself a favor: when selecting a company spokesman make sure you ask the right questions of your spokesman and your marketing team. Avoid embarrassing moments like having to pull all of your advertising (which wastes money) and having to apologize to your customers.

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