Pfizer gets frisky with Viva Viagra ad

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Three years after the FDA yanked its "Wild Thing" ads off the air, Pfizer is again taking a playful approach with a Viagra TV spot riffing on the Elvis hit Viva Las Vegas. And this time, they got the agency's OK in advance. The 60-second spot by McCann Erickson features a band of forty- and fiftysomething-looking men at a roadhouse bar playing Viva Viagra.

As the narrator wraps up the risk info and the band delivers the chorus, one of them is shown roaring off on a motorcycle.

Pfizer said the buoyant spot tested better than ads focusing on the disease. “The goal of these ads is to take that upbeat tone and positive approach and motivate men to engage in dialogue with their physicians,” said Pfizer spokesman Francisco Gebauer. “It's extremely motivating.” Forty percent more, to be precise, than the more reserved spots Pfizer tested it against.

The ads drew immediate fire from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has waged a campaign against Pfizer for what it alleges are efforts to promote the drug for recreational use—a charge the company denies.

Print ads complementing the spots will follow later in the year.

In November 2004, the FDA, under fire for its handling of the withdrawn Vioxx, ordered Pfizer to pull a spot that showed a couple lingerie shopping and asked: “Remember that guy they used to call ‘Wild Thing?'” The agency said the spot, in which animated blue horns sprout from the man's head, falsely suggested that the drug could restore users to a youthful state of arousal and vigor. Since then, Pfizer has run more circumspect work, including an unbranded TV campaign featuring Dr. Drew Pinsky that launched in late 2005 and a May 2006 branded spot, dubbed “Sports Recording,” offsetting the obligatory frisky couple with a doctor deadpanning risk information.

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