The evolution of DTC: The first ever medical device commercial?

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I remember the first time I saw a non-pharmaceutical ad for a life sciences product. It was 4-5 years ago and GE Medical released a television commercial touting their newest MRI scanner. At the time, I was flabbergasted and confused. It wasn’t like people could hop off the couch, run down to the electronics aisle at Walmart & throw one in the back of their SUV. So what was the point?

Fast forward to today, and we’ve all become accustomed to viewing a handful of pharmaceutical ads during our favorite show in prime time or interrupting a weekend afternoon sporting event. The beautiful ‘patients’, the awkward indications, and the obligatory & embarrassing side effects. By now, we’re just used to it.

But this weekend delivered another shock in the evolution of DTC ads. Never before had I witnessed a television commercial for a real, Class III implantable medical device. With its sponsorship of a PGA Tour event this past weekend, Smith & Nephew released a handful of commercials touting their implantable orthopedic devices. Kudos to S&N for breaking new ground with a series of tasteful & informative ads. But are we prepared for a whole new category of advertising in the life sciences? Patients, doctors and hospital administrators are all casual television viewers…but more importantly they are decision-makers empowered to make buying decisions. And, those commercials we all try so hard to avoid with technologies like TiVo, just got another dose of our industry.


4 Responses

  1. […] Fresh from the tube this weekend: the first ever DTC commercial for medical devices? […]

  2. We were quick to be corrected on this one. Apparently, Jack Nicklaus did an orthopedic hip implant ad campaign a number of years back. In addition, J&J’s Ethicon has a TV commercial for its Realize Band for gastric surgery. We stand corrected!

    Great to hear all your input.

  3. I remember the first DTC Pharmaceutical ad from Boots Pharmaceuticals back in 1983 and the uproar it produced. I find social marketing and directing information to patient advocacy groups more effective, but there is always the lure of TV advertising.

  4. Fascinating, thanks for highlighting this. To the average consumer, the names of most medical device companies are virtually unknown. I had a plate put in my leg recently due a skiing accident. My surgeon was shocked when I asked if it was from Synthes. It was, and I was just glad it wasn’t from a direct competitor 😉

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