No Social Networking for Big Pharma

No social networking for Big Pharma, probably because they are worried that people might realize that the latest and greatest new pharmaceutical has some nasty side effects, or worse, is just ineffective.

Although a majority of marketers have embraced online social media and user-generated content efforts, one industry is conspicuously not taking advantage of the gold rush: pharmaceuticals.

Drug brand Web sites almost never carry the features that marketers usually are desperate to give their customers: bulletin boards, chat rooms, blogs and Web-page hosting.

The reason: Marketers fear that user-generated content will include complaints about injuries caused by their drugs’ side effects. The law requires these “adverse events” to be reported to the FDA. The FDA’s adverse-event databases are regularly combed by lawyers looking for potential class-action suits

[From Why Pharma Fears Social Networking]

and this just boggles the mind:

On the other side are brand managers, whose every published word must survive a thicket of in-house lawyers, some of whom aren’t Internet savvy.

Dori Stowe, chief digital strategist at Grey Healthcare Group, New York, recalls speaking with a pharma company’s legal team about a campaign, “and somebody raised their hand and asked, ‘What’s Google?

Anecdotal, sure, but how McCain-esque to you have to be to have avoided learning the name of Google? I’ve been using Google as my web search tool since 1998, so that’s ten years, plus Google is a hugely successful publicly traded company.

YouTube Pulls Obama Spot

Now I’m really curious to see the ad, I wonder if it is available.

Google-owned YouTube has pulled a Barack Obama ad from its site at the insistence of NBC, which charged that the spot infringed on its copyrighted content and that it did not give Obama’s campaign permission to use the material.

The ad, titled “Bad News,” is designed to get out the vote by appealing to voters and potential voters who do not want John McCain to win the election. At one point, NBC’s Tom Brokaw and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann are shown — with Olbermann announcing that McCain has “won.”

NBC has demanded that Obama stop using the clip altogether. But his campaign balked and instead attached a disclaimer to it that said, “NBC and MSNBC did not cooperate in the making of this video.”

[From YouTube Pulls Obama Spot]

I checked YouTube, and found the ad, removed, with this disclaimer: This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by NBC

If I find a copy, I’ll post it. Must have really irked NBC to be hoisted with their own petard.

McCain is computer illiterate

The ad is actually pretty funny, and McCain did admit he is a relic from a prior age.

“Today is the first day of the rest of the campaign,” Obama campaign manager David Plouffe says in a campaign strategy memo. “We will respond with speed and ferocity to John McCain’s attacks and we will take the fight to him, but we will do it on the big issues that matter to the American people.”

The newest ad showcasing their hard line includes unflattering footage of McCain at a hearing in the early ’80s, wearing giant glasses and an out-of-style suit, interspersed with shots of a disco ball, a clunky phone, an outdated computer and a Rubik’s Cube.

“1982, John McCain goes to Washington,” an announcer says over chirpy elevator music. “Things have changed in the last 26 years, but McCain hasn’t.

“He admits he still doesn’t know how to use a computer, can’t send an e-mail, still doesn’t understand the economy, and favors two hundred billion in new tax cuts for corporations, but almost nothing for the middle class,” it says. It shows video of McCain getting out of a golf cart with former President George H.W. Bush and closes with a photo of him standing with the current President Bush at the White House. “After one president who was out of touch, we just can’t afford more of the same.”

[From The Associated Press: Obama mocks McCain as computer illiterate]


Privacy and IE 8

Unfortunately, much of the internet, especially the ‘free‘ internet1 relies upon cookies, and upon tracking users and click streams. That said, IE 8 and its touted much-improved privacy controls will most likely benefit everyone. Not to mention that Firefox (via the Adblock plugin) and other browsers already have these privacy options, and have had them for years.

Microsoft’s newest browser is still only in beta, but it already has the advertising world in a tizzy. Its “InPrivate” set of features on Internet Explorer 8 out this week has publishers, marketers and industry advocates worried that it could block their ability to distribute, track and even monetize what the Interactive Advertising Bureau values as a $21.2 billion-plus internet-ad industry.

[From Latest Microsoft Browser Fuels Fear – Advertising Age – News]

Computer Consultants

IE’s default settings have InPrivate Blocking turned off, but some advertisers are already worried:

For instance, the InPrivate Browsing feature — already slang-termed “porn mode” — only allows a user to hide single browsing session activities from “over the shoulder” viewers such as family members. It does not block ads from being served to the user or from advertisers counting views or clicks.

It works, and got its nickname, by letting users surf porn sites (or any other content, for that matter) without caching any content such as a list of URLs visited, cookies or other data. That could mean no cookies on your computer — as well as no cookies for future use by marketers or publishers, although only during selected InPrivate sessions.

However, it is the InPrivate Blocking feature that seems potentially more worrisome for advertisers. InPrivate Blocking acts to inform users about sites that consistently track and collect browsing histories. In fact, when a user opts into an InPrivate session, it will automatically block third-party content if it detects that the third party has “seen” the user more than 10 times. So, for instance, if the third party is and it is serving ads across 10 sites a user has visited during an InPrivate session, it will begin to block tracking codes and possibly content on the 11th website.

Mike Zaneis asks:

“With IE’s market share, will so many people activate that so that it could affect the revenue side of the industry?” he asked. “Any content from anywhere that appears as third parties, whether advertising or stock tickers or news feeds, all appear as third parties, and in theory their content could be blocked.

“And if you’re blocking all third parties, you’re also going to block all analytic companies,” he said. “You’d be blocking the companies that do the auditing of ad delivery.” He’s particularly concerned about the potential disruption to the entire accounting system of internet advertising.

[Microsoft Internet Explorer general manager Dean] Hachamovitch concedes that IE 8 has no way of knowing if the content is an ad, a stock tracker or a newspaper column. It can only tell if it is third-party content. So that does mean that any content, say, ads, analytics and more, can be blocked.

Will the great internet gold-rush come to an end? Will DoubleClick have to change their policies? Stay tuned…

  1. for instance, how many of you really click on the ads at this site? Not many, I presume, though Google still keeps track of you, and of our site’s content to theoretically serve targeted advertising []

John McCain Running on Empty

“Running on Empty” (Jackson Browne)

Continuing on a theme, yet another musician is pissed off at the John McCain campaign for appropriating a song without permission. You’d think such copyright stalwarts would have learned to ask first. Silly kids, laws are for Republicans to break.

Jackson Browne sued Sen. John McCain on Thursday for unauthorized use of one of his songs in a television commercial.

Browne, one of rock music’s most famous activists for liberal causes, is “incensed” that the presumptive Republican nominee for president has been using Browne’s signature 1977 song “Running on Empty,” said Lawrence Y. Iser, the singer-songwriter’s attorney.

Browne filed a copy- right infringement lawsuit against McCain and the Republican National Committee in U.S. District Court in L.A., seeking damages and a permanent injunction prohibiting the use of the forlorn arena anthem or any other Browne composition.

Browne’s attorney said that he is “informed and believes” that McCain approved the ad.

[From Jackson Browne sues Sen. John McCain for unauthorized use of ‘Running on Empty’ —]

Luckily, I was able to write this entire post without using a pun based on Jackson Browne’s song, Lawyers in Love.

Insomniac Voters Unite!

When I’m up in the wee hours1, I tend not to watch television, but that’s just me.

Lonely Zenith

The Obama campaign is the first to use a long-form infomercial during the 2008 presidential campaign. If you hadn’t noticed, that may have been because the nearly 30-minute program aired at 1:30 a.m. Sunday on ION Television.

“This was one more effective way for us to communicate with folks who may not normally see other communications we have with voters who are paying closer attention to the race.,” the campaign said in a statement.

The mostly biographical 28-minute, 30-second program included scenes of the Illinois senator’s keynote speech to the 2004 Democratic National Convention as well as scenes from other campaign appearances along with background about Mr. Obama and frequent call-in numbers.

“It is a first. I guess they are going after the insomniac vote,” said Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNS Media Intelligence’s Campaign Media Analysis Group. He said the unusual airing time in fact appears to allow the campaign to test the effectiveness of the infomercial format without spending much.

[From Chicago Business News, Analysis & Articles | Obama courts insomniac vote | Crain’s ]

Political advertising seeks viewership, and especially viewership that isn’t competed over by political rivals.

  1. which unfortunately happens more than it should []

Lawmakers Make Web-Advertising Inquiries

Worth noting.

Senior lawmakers are launching an investigation into potential privacy problems stemming from companies that tailor Internet advertising to consumers’ Web surfing.

Four top Democrats and Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent letters to 33 companies asking detailed questions about how they serve Web ads to customers and whether they collect or store data on people’s Internet searches.

The letters went to large companies such as Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc., AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc. as well as smaller companies such EarthLink Inc.

The letters were signed by John Dingell (D., Mich.), Joe Barton (R., Texas), Edward Markey (D., Mass.) and Cliff Stearns (R., Fla.).

[From Lawmakers Make Web-Advertising Inquiries –]

Two Republicans, two Democrats. Hmm, apparently non-partisanship can occur, if need be.

Free Credit Report

Free credit report, umm, not so fast. It’s really $14.95 a month. Gotcha!

“It’s called,” he said. “It’s kind of easy to make that assumption. I didn’t see anything in the process of signing up that said, ‘Hey, if you don’t cancel in 30 days or whatever, you’re going to get charged.’ ”

Consumer groups have long objected to sites like Consumers may obtain a free credit report each year from the three major agencies, as mandated by an act that Congress passed in 2003. The only authorized site for that is

The three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, are required to offer reports through the authorized, but the bureaus also make money from their own credit reports.

Experian, which owns, increased both its site visitors and new member sign-ups by 20 percent in 2007.

[From Advertising – The High Cost of a ‘Free Credit Report’ –]

I should sign up, actually. This post is a public note to myself to see what lies are contained on my consumer DNA file. As long as I don’t sign up in the wrong place:

The FTC has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report online. Some consumers responded to TV ads, email offers, or simply searched online.

The FTC recently settled a lawsuit against – which did business as Experian Consumer Direct – over the “free credit report” promotion it advertised on television, radio and the Internet, including its websites and

Brazilian Takeover Bid Imperils Bud Brand

V is for Victory
[V is for Victory – click to embiggen]

Blah blah blah. Bud was so eager to wrap itself with the American flag, I have no sympathy for them now.

CHICAGO ( — As Anheuser-Busch frets over how to ward off a takeover attempt from Brazilian-run InBev, the positioning of its flagship brand might just be the closest thing the No. 1 U.S. brewer has to a poison pill.

In fact, A-B distributors and agency executives who have worked on Bud and its sibling brands have grave doubts that a brand as overtly red, white and blue as Budweiser — and, by connection, its siblings — would remain credible with consumers under a Belgian owner operated by Brazilians.

“It could be a disaster,” said an executive at one of A-B’s agencies. “It’s all-American above all else — the Clydesdales, all the imagery. It’s an enormous challenge” if the brand becomes foreign-owned. And there’s a lot at stake: In 2007, $8.5 billion of A-B’s $16.7 billion in total global revenue came from sales of Bud-family brands in the U.S.

The situation is made even more ironic by the fact that A-B has in the past been willing to play the patriotism card against competitors. Earlier this decade, after Miller was acquired by South African Breweries and Coors merged with Canada-based Molson, A-B railed against their owners as “foreign interests” with a nativist strategy that would make Lou Dobbs blush.

On its websites and in point-of-sale materials, A-B ripped Miller and Coors for sending profits abroad and closing breweries here. “With over 80% of its employees outside of the United States, it’s hard to ignore a simple question: Does Miller reflect the American spirit?” said Budweiser’s official website at the time.

[From Brazilian Takeover Bid Imperils Bud Brand – Advertising Age – News]

American corporations like Anheuser-Busch who helped the Republicans get in power are now reaping their rewards – a dollar at near historic lows, and absentee corporate ownership in countries with stronger economies. Budweiser makes crappy beer to boot. They import a few quality brews (Bass Ale, for instance), but that has nothing to do with their brewing skills, just their distributing and political clout.

News America vs the World

News America has a dark reputation in the in-store media arena as well.

Tatsuda IGA

News Corp.’s trouble in aisle three – Jul. 20, 2007:
For months now, Rupert Murdoch’s quest for Dow Jones has riveted the business world. But another juicy melodrama is unfolding at News Corp., one that may shed some light on how the $25 billion company sometimes does business.

It involves a little-known subsidiary called News America marketing, which comprises the bulk of News Corp.’s magazines and inserts division. It produces newspaper coupon inserts, in-store supermarket ads, and the like. That may seem boring next to, say, movies or MySpace, yet, its profitability is anything but: Its 28% operating margins are the highest at News Corp., while operating profit is triple that of Dow Jones (Charts). Even more scintillating is a series of lawsuits alleging that News America used anticompetitive behavior to try to drive its rivals out of the market, and the recent emergence of a former employee who claims the company tried to pay him off to keep quiet. His lawyer: Philip Hilder, best known for representing Enron whistleblower Sherron Watkins. The saga has become the talk of the industry.

News America’s $1.1 billion in sales make it a small player by Murdoch standards, but it has a market dominance that’s unrivaled in most industries: It controls 50% to 60% of the insert market and as much as 90% of the in-store business, estimates analyst Robert Evans of Craig-Hallum Capital Group. “They are the hands-down 800-pound gorilla,” says Peter Hoyt, executive director of the In-Store Marketing Institute, a trade association.

It’s a gorilla that likes to throw its weight around, according to four separate lawsuits filed by competitors that accuse it of using illegal tactics against them.

A business acquaintance used to work at News America, and is full of stories of anti-competitive behavior and shitty treatment of employees, but of course, without hard evidence, and subsequently no involvement with this case:

But now there may be a smoking gun in the form of an ex-employee who is alleging unsavory conduct on the part of his erstwhile employer. Robert Emmel, a former account manager who worked in in-store marketing, was fired late last year; a few months later, after Floorgraphics subpoenaed him as part of its lawsuit, Emmel revealed he had kept a copy of his computer hard drive because, he said in a deposition, he “had some concerns about some of the business practices that News America had engaged in.” Just what is on those disks is still unknown, but News America isn’t taking any chances: In April the company sued Emmel personally, alleging, among other things, breach of contract and misappropriation of trade secrets. Emmel countersued under Georgia’s RICO statute.

The charges in Emmel’s countersuit read like headlines ripped from Murdoch’s New York Post. Among them: “the extortionate use of economic fear,” “theft and scheme to commit wire fraud,” and the allegation that News America broke into Floorgraphics’ computer system 11 times during one three-month span.

Emmel also alleges that News America’s president, Christopher Mixson, offered him $30,000 in “severance” after Emmel told a colleague he was weighing speaking with the state of Minnesota’s attorney general’s office, which is a co-plaintiff in one of the lawsuits. Reached for comment, Emmel would say only, “I’m a pro-justice individual.” Mixson declined to comment.

As for Carlucci, a quick look at his background suggests a man with a soft spot for tough guys and how they operate. A board member of the Guardian Angels, he has invited founder Curtis Sliwa to speak at a company meeting for several years running. And according to the Valassis lawsuit, Carlucci once tried to motivate his sales force by playing a scene from the film The Untouchables in which Al Capone crushes a rival’s skull with a baseball bat. In Murdoch’s eyes, though, Carlucci is a star: In 2005 he gave him the added job of publisher of the Post, replacing Murdoch’s son Lachlan.

(previous coverage of Carlucci and News America)