You are the marketing director of Propecia, a new drug for hair restoration that's about to hit the market. But the drug can only be purchased via a physician's prescription. So do you advertise directly to balding men? Do you concentrate on targeting physicians? How about attempting to influence the wives or barbers of balding men? All these issues and more faced Tom Casola, who in 1997 was heading the Propecia marketing effort for the drug maker Merck & Co. The case was discussed by audience members at the 5th Annual Alumni Healthcare Conference on November 6, 2004; HBS assistant professor Marta Wosinska led the conversation. The Propecia launch came at a time of regulatory change, which made advertising of prescription drugs to consumers more feasible. But Casola had to consider three limitations on such advertising: 1. A "product claim" ad could mention both the brand name of the drug and the problem it could correct, but would also have to include a list of major side effects. Trying to put side effects into context in a 30-second TV spot was next to impossible. 2. "Reminder" ads could mention the brand of the drug, but not mention what the drug was for. 3. "Help-seeking" ads allowed for un-branded ads that would encourage men to seek a doctor's advice if they were concerned about hair loss. In addition to marketing directly to consumers, Casola would also consider strategies for Merck's more traditional marketing channel of selling direct to physicians, using the company's army of field representatives. The problem of so-called "detailing" to physicians was that the sales reps have literally a few minutes or even seconds to pitch directly to the doctor, and are selling three Merck drugs at a time. DIRECT TO CONSUMERS
Given the Food and Drug Administration's advertising restrictions, what kind of advertising should Merck pursue, Wosinska asked the audience: product claim, reminder, or help-seeking? Most attendees thought the product claim approach was the...
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