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Merck's Charm Offensive

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Vogue
Gardasil Advertisment

In the current monster-sized issue of Vogue, my producer, Ruth, while killing time on the Delta shuttle on our way from New York to Boston for a shoot this week, uncovered a blogworthy story buried in the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages of fashion ads. It represents a whole new idea in the world of direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertising.

Merck has recently talked about how difficult it's been to sell its Gardasil vaccine for sexually-transmitted disease and cervical cancer to 19-to-26-year-old women. The company's trying everything. Earlier this summer I blogged about how MRK was advertising the shots to captive audiences going to see the "Sex and the City" movie. Well, now it's taking another new tack to turn Gardasil into gold: Gardasil jewelry. Yep. You read that right. Gardasil jewelry.

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Vogue
Gardasil Advertisment

The spread is on four pages of heavy paper stock. If you want to check it out, I'll save you the time and frustration of thumbing through the ssue. (It's on page 599.)

You can also see the new "Charm 4 Life" campaign and save the $5 for "Vogue" here: www.charm4life.com. They're charging $32 for four "limited edition" bangles designed by Carolyn Rafaelian of the jewelry company "Alex and Ani." The proceeds will go to the "Prevent Cancer Foundation."

It's interesting that Merck is shifting from what's called a branded ad campaign back to a disease awareness campaign, in an attempt to tap into this part of the market.

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Vogue
Gardasil Advertisment

Gardasil is an important, relatively new blockbuster growth-driver for MRK, but sales growth has been sputtering a bit lately. And last week it was the target of a one-two punch with a front-page, above-the-fold article in "The New York Times" and features in "The New England Journal of Medicine" questioning its cost effectiveness.

In the meantime, drug DTC has now gone QVC.

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