News

Sort By

Pfizer to Sell Viagra to Men by Appealing to Women

Pfizer Viagra pills

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer hopes to increase sales of its blockbuster erectile dysfunction drug by aiming its latest Viagra television advertising campaign at a new audience – women.

In an effort to sway men who may be on the fence about getting the “little blue pill” for some help in the bedroom, the drug company is hoping girlfriends and wives can push their product over the top. The latest TV spot, a minute-long commercial, features a seductive, middle-aged woman directly addressing men.

“So guys, it’s just you and your honey. The setting is perfect. But then erectile dysfunction happens again. Plenty of guys have this issue — not just getting an erection, but keeping it,” the actress says. Then, she tells men to ask their doctors about the drug.

The FDA approved Viagra in 1998. Shortly thereafter, sales of the prescription drug skyrocketed. The medication belongs to a class of drugs called PDE5 inhibitors and works by blocking certain enzymes to dilate blood vessels and enhance blood flow to the penis.

Overall, Viagra brought Pfizer close to $2 billion in profit in 2013.

Expert: Women Dislike Erectile Dysfunction More than Men

Targeting women is the latest marketing tactic from Pfizer in an effort to maintain Viagra’s top-selling status. The pharmaceutical company spends more than $100 million a year in TV advertising alone in its direct-to-consumer campaigns to maintain the drug’s profitability.

The campaign hopes to reel in men who may be reluctant to talk to doctors about the drug by appealing to women. Irwin Goldstein, director at the San Diego Sexual Medicine center and consultant to drug makers, told The Associated Press that men dislike going to the doctor and that women are often more upset by erectile dysfunction than men.

The new commercials will run before popular TV shows including “CSI,” Blue Bloods,” and “48 Hours.” Viagra was also a sponsor – along with Budweiser and T-Mobile – for this week’s American League Wild Card game between Oakland and Kansas City. The new ad was scheduled to air during the game.

Last year, Pfizer targeted men too embarrassed to go to the pharmacist. Through its website, it offered to sell the ED drug to any man with a valid prescription. That program not only helped boost sales but also removed a large portion of the drugs from the black market. Because Viagra is also one of the world’s most counterfeited drugs.

Pfizer’s drug also faces competition from generics and rival brand-name drugs, including newly approved Stendra. Executives hope the new ad will build brand loyalty and get women to talk to their mates about the drug.

New Marketing Direction for Viagra

Women never played a prominent role in previous marketing campaigns for Viagra. Previous ads for featured middle-aged men doing typical masculine activities like deep-sea fishing or off-roading in trucks.

In contrast, Viagra’s primary competitor, Cialis, features couples being intimate and women have always been in those commercials with the famous his-and-hers bathtubs.

Instead of relying on innuendo and euphemisms – such as using the industry term “ED” – Pfizer is taking a more direct approach, Pfizer marketing chief Vic Clavelli told AP. For instance, the new ad doesn’t shy away from the word “erection.”

On one hand, market analysts think the new direction may garner more brand loyalty, others are skeptical.

“I’m not sure it will result in more sales,” Esquared Asset Management’s health care portfolio manager Les Funtleyder said.

Unadvertised Risks

What consumers won’t find in these new commercials is a warning about one of the drug’s most startling risks. A 2014 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine linked the drug to the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma.

The study co-authored by Dr. Abrar Qureshi of Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University included 26,000 men who took Viagra. Results showed Viagra increased the risk of melanoma by 84 percent.

“People who are on the medication and who have a high risk for developing melanoma may consider touching base with their primary care providers,” Qureshi told NBC News.

Some lawyers say it won’t be long until Pfizer faces melanoma lawsuits related to the drug.

Men who are over 50 are already at a higher risk for melanoma and this same age group is the target audience for Viagra. Doctors say the numbers are significant enough to warrant more studies.

Last modified: October 9, 2017

Author

Michelle Y. Llamas is a senior content writer. She is also the host of Drugwatch Podcast where she interviews medical experts as well as patients affected by drugs and medical devices. She has written medical and legal content for several years — including an article in The Journal of Palliative Medicine and an academic book review for Nova Science Publishers. With Drugwatch, she has developed relationships with legal and medical professionals as well as with several patients and support groups. Prior to writing for Drugwatch, she spent several years as a legal assistant for a personal injury law firm in Orlando. She obtained her English – Technical Communication degree from the University of Central Florida. She is a committee member with the American Medical Writers Association.

Hide Sources

  1. Geschek, P. (2013, March 13). Pfizer's direct-to-consumer campaigns: A model for the future? Seeking Alpha. http://seekingalpha.com/article/1430771-pfizers-direct-to-consumer-campaigns-a-model-for-the-future
  2. Associated Press. (2014, September 30). Viagra ads target women for 1st time. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/viagra-ads-target-women-for-1st-time/
  3. Thomas, K. (2013, May 6). Facing black market, Pfizer is looking online to sell Viagra. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/07/business/pfizer-begins-selling-viagra-online.html?_r=0
Free Viagra Case Review