Will Paid Word-of-Mouth Do The Trick?

From Ad Age:

Troubled by the worsening reputation of drug companies that is ranked just above tobacco and oil manufacturers, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline is out to win over a skeptical public — by turning its entire sales force into a PR machine.
In an unprecedented mission, the $35.4 billion pharmaceutical giant has quietly anointed its 8,000 U.S. sales representatives as “public relations ambassadors” to lift its image and that of the beleaguered industry with grassroots PR. The initiative, dubbed the ”Value of Medicine,” was created by Michael Pucci, GSK’s VP-external advocacy, to respond to overwhelming criticism and negative perception of the pharmaceutical industry.
“What we’re leveraging here is asking our employees to talk to people, even if they just start with their family members,” he said.
“I understand pharma does feel they’ve been picked on, but I’m not sure this is the best way to go about changing that image,” said Dr. Donna Sweet, chair of the Board of Regents for the American College of Physicians, which is on record as opposing direct-to-consumer advertising.

Alison Byrne Fields, VP of Social Marketing at Ogilvy PR wonders, “Are there other, more credible voices that the industry could be tapping into in order to enhance their reputation? The days of blind faith in your doctor (or even having a regular physician!) have diminished the medical field’s credibility.”

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Because of the constant depreciation of the image of big pharma what other choice do GSK have? For the last few years the publics trust of advertising has fallen greatly and been replaced by word of mouth – be it frinds, blogs, or other means. People are tired of being shown flashy ads (that in my opinion make no sense if you cant tell people what the drug does)The only option Pharma has is to start from the ground up, and thats word-of-mouth at its prime. They need to revamp their image – and advertising just isnt going to get it done on a credible level.