Drug Rehabilitation

May 8 1997 3:30 AM

Drug Rehabilitation

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Sound02 - osteo.avi or Sound03 - osteo.mov; download time, 3.50 minutes at 56K Sound01 - vr-osteo.asf; for sound only

Daifotis, produced by Carter Eskew of Bozell-Eskew he Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers Assn.

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The producers of Daifotis faced a Herculean task: Survey data showed that their client, the pharmaceutical industry, had an image problem. Like your friendly neighborhood politician, your friendly neighborhood drug company was considered anything but. Au contraire, the unhappy consensus was that it was avaricious, monopolistic, loyal only to the bottom line.

Appropriately, the man charged with the task is a past master at peddling image as product. Head of the ad team for Clinton-Gore '92, Carter Eskew has since migrated to the commercial side of the business. And Daifotis, like the other spots in the Bozell-Eskew campaign for the pharmaceutical industry, marks the convergence of political and commercial advertising. Using one of the former's most powerful ploys, it chooses to come at the viewer obliquely via a human face, a human tragedy, that carefully fronts the industry behind.

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The issue here is osteoporosis and the speaker, a young woman whose life it touched. "My grandmother had osteoporosis," she says, briefly humanizing the 10 million victims who might have otherwise been collapsed into a single statistic by the opening chyron. Here and through the spot, she speaks directly to the camera, her earnest face and voice limning with hope the shots of an ailing elder and of single, bleak lines of text that bring the disease to life and the living room. Her speech seems spontaneous, not scripted: The desired effect, of course, is that she personalize the industry she is promoting, edging it into our consciousness as a provider of solutions--nay, as a caring provider of solutions.

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A black-and-white photograph briefly recalls happier times, then makes way for this young professional (she's wearing the mandatory blue suit) describing her grandmother's degeneration, her increasing frailty and the consequent reversal of roles: "I had to carry her and hold her as I remember her always carrying me." As we read the astounding numbers--62,000 osteoporosis victims will enter nursing homes this year, few to return home--she tells us how the disease operates, of soft bones that yield to the gentlest touch. There is a solution in sight, however, and she tells us that she is a part of it. The stage set, the audience primed, the spot can reveal that she is a pharmaceutical-company researcher who "really feels" she is making a difference, that she is a proud member of a group that has found a way to "increase the bone mass in people." And "her company"--this is the clincher, which, fusing human face and industry, testifies to a mission accomplished--has developed one of these rehabilitative drugs.

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But the company makes only a brief appearance, and the spot seesaws right back to the human issue. A close-up of the woman's hands reinforces the fact that osteoporosis could become anyone's reality. Going behind the figures and images, she talks of the psychological impact of the disease, of the victim's discovery that she is "that frail old woman she never wanted to become." Then the counterpoint, the explicit projection of the young woman's company as the harbinger of hope: It is helping over 1 million women, and she, its human face, is tireless in her effort to find a drug that will enable a woman to "climb stairs without fear, stand a little taller."

Reinforcing the commitment and humanity that energize this individual and the behemoth behind her, the final chyrons stress that this is no pat pitch: à la political spots that seek to convince the viewer that she is on the threshold of a wider truth, Daifotis serves up a toll-free number. This isn't just a 60-second spot, we are supposed to decide; more information is a mere phone call away. And this isn't the same old drug industry either; "America's Pharmaceutical Companies" are in your corner, pulling for you. They're new and improved, like Labor in '97 or the Democrats in '92. And before you carp about old wine and new bottles, old dogs and new tricks, take a look at those election returns. Something sure worked.

--Robert Shrum

Robert Shrum is a leading Democratic political consultant.