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The "Anatomy" Of Intuitive Surgical's TV Appearance

Intuitive Surgical is located on the west coast. So, the folks there weren't at work yet when I called earlier today seeking comment on what I thought was product placement in last night's "Grey's Anatomy." They all stayed up late to watch the showand then bask in the glow of the kind of advertising some might say money can't buy. And, in this case, apparently it didn't.

ISRG's Director of Marketing, Heather Chemtob, just called to tell me it wasn't product placement at all and that no money changed hands.

She said the folks at ABC'sGrey's reached out to ISRG less than two months ago and asked to use one of its robots because it likes to keep it real. Of course, ISRG was more than happy to oblige. Chemtob said the company got to proof the script for the two scenes where the daVinci robotwas used or talked about and sent a couple of "experts" to the set for the two-day shoot to make sure the device was used "appropriately." ISRG had once arranged a similar loaner to NBC's"ER,"Chemtob told me.

She thought most of the stuff would end up on the proverbial cutting room floor, but the company was "amazed" by how much they actually put into last night's show.

So was I.

Source: intuitivesurgical.com

As far as the cross-promotion ISRGis doing on its website, Chemtob said the company was careful not to use any images,clips or quotes from the show. They just wanted to capture any inquisitive viewers - I guess, like me maybe - who might have wanted to check out what the deal was with the thingamajig. "For us, it's just about patient education," Chemtob said.

But Miller Tabak healthcare analyst Les Funtleyder says there's more to it than that. He sent me an email after reading my earlier blogabout all this to point out that Intuitive Surgical has "been encouraging DTC (direct to consumer) advertising for prostate and hysterectomies. Perhaps this is an extension of that. They want people to go into the doctor and specifically ask for 'the robot'."

Now they might be asking for 'the robot' they saw on "Grey's."

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman

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