Genetech is running ads in the NY Times, The New Yorker, and on their Web site that feature patients offering testimonials framed in social progress terms. The campaign is similar to the Bristol Myers Squib TV ads I described here. In a smart strategic move, the ad campaign "re-frames" the issue of biotech drugs away from the public accountability arguments centered on access and affordability, back towards an emphasis on a "hope for cures." Here is how the San Francisco Business Times details the ad campaign:
Debbie Reynolds went public on her incontinence for Pharmacia. Bob Dole talked about erectile dysfunction for Pfizer. Genentech's got Joel Golub. Golub, a chief information officer for New Jersey Transit, is one of six patients who has allowed the South San Francisco biotechnology giant to use edited versions of thank-you letters they sent the company to express gratitude for its life-saving drugs. Now those letters underpin a pioneering advertising campaign. "For the last seven years, I've been healthy because of your company's efforts," he wrote. "Your discovery has given me a chance to get remarried, have a family, go to a dance recital for my beautiful daughter, see my son play baseball, and generally squeeze every drop I can out of life." The ads feature a black and white photograph of the patient set over a handwritten letter on a blue sheet of lined paper. The campaign is running in publications such as the New York Times and the New Yorker, as well as on radio in major cities, through December. It is believed to be the first major brand-building campaign aimed at the general public in the company's 30-year history. Though the ads do not seek to sell any Genentech drug -- drug names and cancer types have been edited out of the letters -- it reflects an effort by the company to create a positive association with its name as it finds itself increasingly criticized for the high cost of its life-saving and life-prolonging drugs.