Is the New Viagra Ad Going Too Far?

Viagra’s new TV ad is meant to make the drug stand out from competing ED pill Cialis. Until now, both pharma companies Pfizer (Viagra) and Lilly (Cialis) took the same messaging approach, essentially showing a strong middle aged man getting manly things done. It was a message of self-reliance, that with help from a little pill, would extend into the bedroom as well.



Now Viagra gets bold. The ad shows an attractive middle-aged woman talking directly to the men watching at home, telling a tale about a perfect setting, just you and your honey – until ED strikes. Later on, she even uses the word “erection” instead of the sanitized “erectile dysfunction.” There are lots of intense close-in shots of her and imagery meant to titillate men. (I can almost imagine Lilly – if they were way less conservative, countering with a “Get It Up” campaign… along with Marvin Gaye crooning “let’s get it on” in the background!).
Some folks, like in this Forbes editorial, want the ad dropped, citing concerns about what kids will think. DTC (direct to consumer) ads are ostensibly meant to educate, but are really designed to get more scrips written. What controls should there be over ads like this – should they be limited to later hours, like the more explicit TV shows are?
In messaging, we always advocate setting “Think/Feel/Do” objectives. In this case, the agency would push the Viagra product manager to explicitly say what s/he wants viewers to think and feel and do after seeing the ad. I imagine this campaign is achieving its intended objectives with men, and some unintended ones with kids.