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Laborde Can’t Elude PAAB Jabs

Chalk up a victory for Ray “Boom Boom” Chepesiuk. The commissioner of the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board (PAAB) won a unanimous decision over the challenger, Mike Laborde, in their main-event debate at the April 17 breakfast meeting of the PMCQ.

The event was hyped as the “Thrilla in Dorval” by PMCQ director and event promoter Anthony Mancini of Bristol-Myers Squibb. The packed house saw Laborde, former general manager of Académie-Ogilvy (1985-2000), showcase his acting skills with a superb performance in his role as a product manager attempting to secure PAAB approval on a product ad. Chepesiuk also delivered an Oscar-quality performance with a convincing portrayal of himself.

The ad in question was in support of a mock “mega-spectrum” antibiotic touted as being 100% effective in eradicating bacteria. As documented in the mock-product monograph, however, treatment also resulted in the unfortunate eradication of 50% of the patients treated. Laborde tried admirably to put a positive spin on this troublesome side effect; “Half the patients died, but even the dead people had no bacteria,” he quipped, to the delight of the capacity crowd.

The ad was filled with blatant unsubstantiated claims, misleading assertions and questionable referencing, all of which were dissected in a point-counterpoint fashion by Chepesiuk. As Laborde tried to plead his case with classic tongue-in-cheek humour, Chepesiuk played the straight man, quoting PAAB code regulations to refute the ad’s claims.

Although the debate certainly succeeded in its intent to be a humorous representation of a typical industry-PAAB dialogue, the interplay also brought to light important elements of the PAAB code.

Chepesiuk explained, for example, that PAAB, together with industry and health-care stakeholders, has recently decided that abstracts will no longer be accepted as legitimate references.

Chepesiuk also suggested a means to reduce the workload of PAAB reviewers, appealing to the assembled marketers to reduce the number of complaints submitted to the board. “Pick your spots, pick your fights,” he said, “I don’t think PAAB is the place for marketing disputes.”

“Following the PAAB code,” he went on, “would lead to recognized quality and credibility of drug advertising.”

After the debate between the two drew to a close, Marshall Paul, chairman of PERQ-HCI Research (a VNU information Services Company), concluded the morning session with an informative presentation on return on investment (ROI) in pharmaceutical advertising.

Although he asserted that “detailing is your primary form of promotion,” the key point of his presentation was that advertising raises ROI by 38% compared to detailing alone.

Furthermore, his analysis of U.S. data showed that print advertising was the most effective way to raise ROI, resulting in an increase over detailing alone in 72% of cases. Combination of print and TV ads, however, “gets you the strongest ROI, without a doubt.”

If the high percentage of audience members scribbling notes during Paul’s presentation is any indication, his message was heard and understood.

Click here to view PowerPoint presentation.

by Scott Moffatt
Pharm Team Communications

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