Taking a page from the consumer marketing playbook, pharma giant Pfizer has launched a new televison ad campaign that encourages viewers to sign up to receive text messages from the company in exchange for a discount of 50% on a year-long supply of the prescription drug Viagra.

As FiercePharma's Beth Snyder Bulik describes, "The ad opens with the now-familiar woman in a dark blue dress who asks, 'Guys, want to save 50% on a yearlong supply of Viagra for ED?' A mobile phone close-up then takes over the screen with the promotion and text keyword 'VSAVE,' and she explains in voice-over how to get the discount."

Before receiving the discount code, consumers must reply to a text message that opts them in to receiving multiple text messages from Pfizer every month.

The opt-in also gives Pfizer the ability to collect additional information, such as names, phone numbers and birthdates. Consumers who opt in can opt out at any time via text.

Obviously, to use the discount, consumers must have a valid prescription for Viagra from their doctor.

A smart investment?

Text messaging-based marketing programs like Pfizer's are common in the consumer marketing world, but as Bulik notes, the Viagra campaign "seems to be a first for a pharma company." It might not be the last, however. Indeed, there are a number of reasons why similar campaigns could be smart investments for pharma companies in 2017.

First, pharma companies' reputational woes are reducing the sway of television ads. While this will realistically require a multi-pronged response over the long term, an immediate tactic for making the most of television could be to develop campaigns that offer discounts in return for a meaningful exchange.

Second, with the specter of a ban on direct-to-consumer ads, it behooves pharma companies to find ways to develop channels through which they can communicate directly with patients who use their drugs.

Text messaging programs that are built off of discount offers are an especially practical means to do this, especially in light of the fact that pharma-owned and operated web properties have much lower usage than non-pharma owned and operated web properties, limiting pharma companies' ability to drive engagement through their websites.

Finally, given the proliferation of generic drugs, anything pharma companies can do to establish direct relationships with patients who use their drugs might prove valuable in the future.

While Viagra won't come off-patent in the US for several more years, Pfizer has struck deals that will see generics hitting the market this year, so having the ability to communicate with patients currently using Viagra could help the drug maker maintain the market for the brand name product.

Patricio Robles

Published 23 January, 2017 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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