Pharmaceutical companies launch positive ad campaign to counter growing criticism of industry

In response to President Trump's ongoing criticism of the rising costs of prescription medication manufactured by companies, a new ad campaign called "Go Boldly," launched this week with an aim to convince the American public that its efforts are about saving lives, not "getting away with murder," as Trump stated recently.

“This industry is the crown jewel of the American economy,” said Stephen Ubl, who heads the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America, the industry trade group behind the campaign. “… We have a great story to tell and we’re going to do a better job telling it.”

The new campaign, which was created by WPP's health and wellness group, and led by an internal pharma partnership with creative by Y&R, was in the works over six months ago.

The first TV ad, “Do Not Go Gentle,” highlights real biopharmaceutical scientists working to find new cures, and “Cells” highlights scientific advances happening at the cellular level and will be featured in print and digital ads. Throughout the year, PhRMA will introduce new ads focusing on advancements in science and the stories of real researchers alongside patients benefiting from medicines being developed.

The Go Boldly campaign will include national TV, print, digital, radio and out-of-home advertising, and its website, GoBoldly.com, will offer information about the topics and themes featured in advertisements. PhRMA has redesigned Innovation.org to provide in-depth information about advances in biopharmaceutical innovation. The hashtag #GoBoldly will be used across social media channels.

The industry has been under attack for rising drug costs with numerous companies regularly raising prices more than once a year and increasing list prices that often exceed the inflation rate.

“To some extent, the industry was led into [its image] problem by the rogue players,” said Ira Loss of Washington Analysis, who tracks the pharmaceutical industry for investors. “But to some degree, it’s justly deserved and I don’t think there’s much they can do to change their reputation.”

The new ad campaign focuses on this theme but without delving into the pricing debate and for good reason. “They’re keeping their heads down and trying to talk about the good stuff — and hope that Trump gets distracted,” said one industry veteran who works in drug development.

Trump, however, appears to be singling out drug makers in keeping with his populist strategy. And as long as consumers have difficulty affording their medicines, the industry is likely to remain a whipping boy, cures or no cures.

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