S&R Blog

Do you remember life before Twitter?

OK, so I will start with a hint about my age: Do you remember where you were when Neil Armstrong first walked on the moon? (We are approaching the 40th anniversary of the date, July 21, 1969.) I was on the beach in Wildwood, New Jersey with my then girlfriend, now wife. She was incredible and so was the idea of a man on the moon. It was wondrous to look at the moon and realize that we were able to send someone so far away and then bring him back. Space launches are so matter-of-fact today, but it was such an accomplishment then, something that our country was so proud of. (Remember the Cold War?)

Something more recent and not nearly as memorable: Can you remember where you were when someone first described Twitter to you?

I was having lunch with an account executive and a client in Boston, and the client was tweeted. He went on to tell me about Twitter, what he tweets about, and who he follows. He was so into it, so excited about this new communication, this ability to have conversations with people that he did not know. The account executive got really engaged in the conversation, but frankly I did not get it. As a matter of fact, I am certain that the face I had on that day, as much as I tried to hide it, is the face that I still have today when someone talks about Twitter. You know… squint a bit, furrow your brow, and non-verbally say, “What? Why would anyone want to do this?”

So how did your face look (not Facebook) when you first heard about Twitter? What was your expression?

What did you think? What does it say about us if I think WITFITS about Twitter and you think 2G2BT? Do you think this difference is age? An ability to two-thumb type 200 words a minute on our Blackberries or iPhones? I never thought the Internet provided too much information. I don’t know how we conducted business without it. But Twitter, I don’t know. TMI with too little value to be sure.

So now Novo Nordisk has jumped into Twitter with Charlie Kimball.

Take a look at some comments here. I am sure that following Charlie on Twitter is a small part of a much bigger idea, but this use of Twitter seems forced to me. (I can read it now: CSA, we can use Twitter, millions will follow Charlie!) IDTS (or IBTD for the polite types). Here we have a paid spokesperson who is an open-wheel racecar driver, diabetic, and racing while on Levemir® (insulin determir [rDNAorigin] injection). Twitter is filled with abbreviations, not registered marks. Does anyone know how to make a registered mark on a Blackberry? When does Charlie get a chance to Twitter during a race? During a pit stop?

And what’s the point?

A diabetes patient reads this and says, “Gee, I want to be just like Charlie, and I will use Levemir! Let me click on the full prescribing information!” Maybe the more likely response is, “Even though I am a diabetic, I can still live a fun life filled with occasional episodes of terror as I am passing on a curve at 200 mph! Let me follow Charlie as I find out how he does it.” IDGI!

I also want to get the medical regulatory review process of this. So Charlie wants to tweet (and 200 followers can’t wait to read it.) “At the Dodger game! Beautiful day for the All American game.” As Charlie can elect to tweet at anytime during the day, there is an on-call group to review the statements. In the review meeting, someone points out that this comment could be seen by the FDA as a quality of life claim. Does the labeling for Levemir include “more beautiful days” or is this claim not supported by two controlled trials? So it gets changed to “At the Dodger game! Baseball is the All American game.” But wait! Novo Nordisk is a Danish company, and the Dodgers are hardly all American. They have players from Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Korea, Mexico, and Taiwan. So it gets changed to “At the Dodger game!” But wait! When did Charlie take his Levemir? We want to ensure compliance here. So “Just took Levemir®” (note the trademark) is added, and the link to full prescribing information is included. OK Charlie, go ahead and send this spur-of-the-moment tweet out to your followers. Whew!

Let’s think about this for a minute: Long, long ago, Boots ran the first DTC ad to support their ibuprofen product Rufen.

The campaign involved regional TV and national print, including an ad with a $1.50-off coupon. ($1.50. Times have really changed!) The ad claimed Rufen was the same as Motrin but less expensive. (Motrin was one of the first Rx-to-OTC switches, but this campaign came out while Motrin was an Rx drug.) At the time, all hell broke loose, the FDA put a moratorium on DTC ads, and it was years until the next ad for a prescription drug was seen. Who would have thought at the time that this ad would lead to the $5 billion DTC environment that we are seeing today?

So who is to say that Charlie Kimball won’t be the start to a Twitter cacophony of pharmaceutical tweets?

NIMY! Look, I don’t want to come across here as an e-anderthal. Or Twitter-dumb. In fact, I believe that there are lots of situations where social media, particularly social media with an invited community, could be a great communication solution. I believe an agency has to look at each situation and recommend solutions to clients that solve their problems and meet their needs. Just like any other media, social media is not the solution for every situation, so we should not try to apply it everywhere. But at least for now, I don’t see Twitter as a rich enough communication vehicle to carry the complex messaging of healthcare. ICBW, but I don’t see Twitter lasting. I certainly don’t see it being as memorable as the first man on the moon.

If you are as confused by the acronyms as I was, visit NetLingo for a list of commonly used acronyms and shorthand.

-Paul Dreyer


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