Saturday, June 5, 2010

Medical Devices – Sideshow Marginalization?

One morning the other day, I was rushing to prepare to leave for work (Yes, I do have a real job.) when I stopped to check The Weather Channel ( ). Impatiently waiting for commercials to go by, I suddenly saw Andrew Thicke of Growing Pains fame ( ) touting diabetes testers for CCS Medical ( ). There was something about the commercial and Alan’s spiel that reminded me of other commercials highlighting powered wheelchairs (I still can’t get that tune out of my head.) and Lee Majors’ Bionic Hearing Aids ( ).

If you’ve been following my recent blogs concerning what’s been happening in the life sciences industry, in particular its slowing momentum, you’ve probably noticed that I believe the wheels are starting to come off the industry’s bus. Commercials like these, admittedly not from the industry leaders, highlight this trend for me.

The direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising campaigns of recent years seem to a new phase or maybe it’s a new low. What started as Sixties-like art films morphed into light, romantic comedy skits with side effects voice over’s thrown is as an afterthought and, now, appear to be moving into a new phase more like the Home Shopping Network ( ).

For me, another sign of commoditization of an industry is mass marketing on the cheap. No disrespect to either Alan Thicke or Lee Majors, but I doubt that they are earning from these product endorsements what they used to in their salad days.

I also think that this is a sign of worse to come for television viewers. In a variation of Gresham’s Law, ‘Bad commercials drive out good.’ (If there was ever anything like a good commercial.) For those requiring proof just look at what reality TV has done to television.

Once upon a time, Stryker (SYK, ) had television commercials that were what one might call high brow. I wouldn’t call them exactly community service but you get the idea. I haven’t seen these for a while. Maybe they’ve been pulled or I’ve lowered the standards of my television watching. Something tells me that Stryker wasn’t getting the desired bang for their buck.

So where could this trend lead? Will we one day see a cable channel dedicated to pharmaceuticals and medical devices? Will we see the television favorites of years past hyping products? Would Sally Field suit up as the Flying Nun again? ( ) Lee Majors has great brand potential with the Bionic Man. Lindsay Wagner ( ) could even make a comeback!

OK, maybe I’m pushing the edge of the envelope here but you get the idea. Standards are continuing to drop in the life sciences area.

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Contributed by Guy de Lastin

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