Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Gastric Band Going Direct-To-Consumers . . .

I just read this article (thanks to a colleague) in a trade publication that I hold near and dear (there is a killer AdAge podcast too, if you care) and . . . well . . . here comes the soap box.

I'm ALL about empowerment in the fight against obesity. I am. Tell us to eat less. Tell us to move. Reward us for our efforts. Chide us for our failures. Point out every fad diet, work out trend, get-skinny-quick scheme and self-adjusting, hidden elastic waist banded pant you can. I love it. I love it all and I consume it all with the ferocity I once saved only for a box of my beloved Oatmeal Creme Pies.

I am all for education and shared resources and experiences and demystifying the process of bariatric surgery but - come on people - do we REALLY need to market lap bands and/or gastric bypass surgery directly to people? On YouTube? Really?

We can't leave DOCTORS in the middle on this? How about the EMMI program (an educational web site designed for engaged patients and surgical candidates) or a microsite that talks about options in a less "commercial" way. I get the idea of DOCTORS using the Internet as a viable, cost effective way to further education.

And - let me be clear (before someone defends this site or calls me a hypocrite or whatever) I am not just complaining about this campaign on YouTube or that the product is also advertised on television. This is not about Realize, Ethicon or its parent company Johnson & Johnson. No disrespect intended to the company that - speaking of band(s) AIDS, that is, has covered more cuts, scrapes and bruises on my body than I even care to quantify.

I'm MORE concerned about this glut of advertising we're getting from the so-called "pharma" industry for all these products, services and offerings and how you should ask your doctor if X is right for you.

Half of the ads (I swear to God) don't even really tell you what X is . . . much less what it might do for you - if it is right for you. And I get that the ads have to devote their time to disclaimers about nose bleeds, indigestion, permanent eye discoloration, night sweats, fits of violence and general annoyance following the use of the product advertised but . . . here is a solution - STOP advertising this stuff directly to consumers. Stop putting people holding hands while laying in neighboring bathtubs on top of a cliff watching a sunset to tell me Wifey and I can still chose the "right moment" even after Little Sean (and I do mean LITTLE (smile)) fails me. And stop implying the right moment might be in neighboring bathtubs on a cliff watching a sunset anyway. I get that you have regulations governing how you can influence, er MARKET to doctors and I get that you also have a million protectors limiting how you can market to consumers and other audiences as well.

We are living in the year 2009 though, people. Figure out how to market TOWARDS your targets without making people think your product is some "one size fits all" commodity or solution. The testimonial web site is a good first step. It is. Two thumbs up there. It is still too much though. The wide-open Internet, especially a portal like YouTube, is not the right place to "sell" lap band. There is too much information, too many opinions, too much conflicting information, too much potential to confuse and inundate OR to sell this lifestyle of ours off as a silver bullet.

Gastric Bypass nor its red-headed step cousin (no disrespect to those that opt for it) the Lap Band procedure are NOT for everyone. They are not. The statistics show that. The human experience shows that. The weight gain after the procedures shows that. The mortality rates from complications the surgery puts on existing/other conditions shows that. This blog and my grammatical errors talk about that. Any number of resources can tell you how "dangerous" and "deadly" gastric bypass is. I read it all. I worried about it all. And then I sat down with DOCTORS who explained it all to me and helped me understand what the procedure might mean for me and what my personal odds and chances and risks were.

Let a DOCTOR (and God love the good men and women that devote their lives to trying to get the fattening, depressed, smoking, drinking, over eating, over stressed, inactive and sexually overextended LOT of us feeling "better" if ONLY for a few days at a time) decide if these procedures are right for "us" or at least trust that any good, self-aware and self-loathing fatty (like myself) is already at least aware of if not considering bariatric surgery BEFORE they see your TV commercial, YouTube video or other DTC effort for advertising.

I don't mean to bite the hand that feeds me (strategic, smart communications and marketing is vital to our economy (just ask me and my colleagues)) but . . . come on . . . let's leave the Internet to porn and other things it was really made for.


jen said...

Are you kidding me? I am treating kids as young as 12 - yes 12 - who are going to mexico for gastic bypass/banding as their vacation for the summer! - they should NOT be able to advertise!!!! Egads. . . . .

Jan said...

Hey Sean ~ I agree that pharmaceutical companies should NOT be allowed to market directly to consumers!

I believe it is sooo wrong! What in the dickens do I know what medical products are good for me? Thats why I go to a DR! And then if it is a 'biggie' like lap banding, I do weeks/months research on my own.

To hear of 12y/o going off to Mexico for lap banding is immoral!

Yes, I've had lap banding and I'm really happy with it. Is it right for everyone? Not by a long shot!

Thanks for the humour in your blog ~ made me smile :-)