Pharmas Market with Mike Huckman

Smokers Say Glaxo Ads Don't Suck

They like it! They really like it!

In a new survey 72 percent of smokers said they thought the use of the word "sucks" was appropriate or extremely appropriate in Glaxo's Nicorette ad campaign that I've been blogging about over the past several weeks.

In fact, if you watch the spot on this research company's Web site, you'll see the green line, representing the interest level of smokers, spike a little when the guy mutters "sucks" the first time.

HCD Research says Glaxo is one of its many pharma clients, but GSK did not commission this survey. I asked the HCD CEO whether if the results had been negative would he have publicized them knowing they might piss off a client and Glenn Kessler said, "Yes." He pointed to the fact that he analyzed the infamous "Swiftboat Ad" even though he claims he's a bleeding heart liberal who angered his Jewish mother by further exposing that politically influential spot.

Anyway, HCD's PR guy, Vince McGourty, is the one who got the ball rolling on the Nicorette focus group. He told me he and his wife were watching TV one night when he saw the Nicorette ad. "I couldn't believe they did a commercial like that," he said. "When we were raising our kids, sucks was not a good word to use." So, McGourty pitched doing an opinion survey of the Nicorette campaign. The company sent its 35,000-person blitz list a link to the spot and an online survey that used dialed meters on the web that measure their responses. 300 people played along. HCD's guinea pigs get paid small amounts of money depending on how many and the size of the surveys they participate in.

McGourty was somewhat surprised by the results. "I thought that using the word 'sucks,' especially so many times is a little inappropriate," he said. "But I guess I was thinking more from a parent perspective." But Kessler wasn't surprised at all by the favorable numbers. "This was humor. This didn't make people feel bad, "Kessler told me, referring to some of the gross-out "stop smoking" PSA's that have been running on TV for awhile. "This didn't make people feel bad about themselves. This gave people a recognition about how difficult it is to stop smoking. It doesn't admonish the people for smoking, it just says to them that it's a tough thing to quit."

That thinking jibes with what GSK CEO Andrew Witty told me at the JPMorgan Health Care Conference a couple of weeks ago when I asked him about the campaign.

Glaxo's Battle Against Swine Flu

Because I'm all about props, I used a box of Nicorette during the interview to show and tell.

I had run out the night before to a Walgreens to buy the stuff. Having never been a smoker I had no clue how much it costs and was shocked to learn the price tag is 55 bucks! After our chat, Witty thanked me for the revenue contribution. But then, on second thought, he added as he walked away that maybe half that amount actually went into GSK's coffers because of the WAG markup.

Apparently the business of quitting smoking doesn't suck.

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