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Cialis and the new methods of marketing

Although it may feel as though we’ve had the internet forever, it’s only been a real force from about 1999 onwards. Now, it’s hard to imagine life without it. When you add in all the hand-held technology that allows us to talk to each other, tweet and sms while we are on the move, the full extent of the revolution becomes obvious. With GPS technology also built into the mobile devices, advertisers can see exactly where we are. If we want to know a good place to eat, it’s easy to ask for guidance. As by magic, a list of eateries comes back, usually accompanied by customer reviews so we have a better idea of which are the most reliable. Through an analysis of our searches, Google and the other companies also have a detailed profile of our interests. As and when they want, these companies will be able to sell targeted lists to marketers. With Google also buying into the hardware side and able to sell Android across all interfaces, it may not be long before we can expect a continuous series of suggestions on where to eat or shop as we drive or walk through a town or city.

Except not all this technology is considered appropriate by some of the regulators. Take Twitter as an example. It’s possible to collect large numbers of followers. Suppose a pharmaceutical company buys into a big list of followers and tweets the launch of a new drug. Wait, a company did this recently with one of the erectile dysfunction drugs. The European regulators were outraged. There’s an absolute ban on the direct promotion of medication to the public. It’s only legal to send marketing messages to healthcare professionals. Worse, the tweet was made in the UK and the local regulator has a rule only messages that are “factual and balanced” can be sent out to the healthcare professionals. A message hyping a launch is not balanced. So on both counts, the manufacturer was named and shamed.

It would be the same result in the US. The FDA has detailed regulations requiring drug manufacturers not only to describe the benefits of the drug, but also to list the adverse side effects. In most cases, this list will exceed the message length on Twitter. A new dilemma on the use of Facebook has also just emerged. Until recently, a drug company has been able to run an informational page with the wall closed to comments. Facebook has now changed the rules and these pages must now allow unedited comments on the wall. If the manufacturer refuses, the pages must close. This creates a big dilemma. Does a manufacturer run the risk of angry patients detailing all their bad experiences when using the drug? It makes control of the brand image very difficult.

So far Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of Cialis, has managed to do everything right. There have been no short messages or tweets making unbalanced marketing statements about the drug. Their brand management of Cialis and of their general reputation has been perfect. It will be interesting to see how it reacts to the change at Facebook. At the time of writing, Eli Lilly still has its wikipedia page up on Facebook with the wall closed.