Generative AI is here to stay, but what about the human side of medical marketing?

Lecia Bushak speaks with Lisa Leonard, a pharma voiceover actor, as well as Jim Kennelly, the owner of Lotas Productions, about the existential questions facing the industry as gen AI sets a practical foothold in the zeitgeist.

Additionally, Lecia recaps how a group of Democratic lawmakers are pushing Big Pharma to address the ongoing drug shortages.

For the Trends segment, we discuss the controversy around WeightWatchers’ GLP-1 Hype House, Amy Schumer’s Cushing syndrome diagnosis and the Where is Wendy Williams? docuseries.

Music by Sixième Son
Check us out at:

Follow us: 
YouTube: @MMM-online
TikTok: @MMMnews 
Instagram: @MMMnewsonline
Twitter/X: @MMMnews
LinkedIn: MM+M

To read more of the most timely, balanced and original reporting in medical marketing, subscribe here.

Note: The MM+M Podcast uses speech-recognition software to generate transcripts, which may contain errors. Please use the transcript as a tool but check the corresponding audio before quoting the podcast.

Hey, it’s Jack. Marc is off this week, so I’ll be hosting today’s episode.

Ever since generative AI and ChatGPT went mainstream at the end of 2022, we’ve had plenty of conversations on this show about what it could mean for healthcare and medical marketing in particular.

We talk about what AI could mean for drug discovery, for public health communications, for brand strategy – but what could it mean on a more granular basis?

What is the potential impact of generative AI on the commercials and advertisements that promote healthcare brands and their respective treatments?

We’ve already seen agencies incorporate these innovations into their creative workflows, so what is the endgame? Could generative AI have a chilling effect on the actors featured in these pharma commercials?

My colleague Lecia sought out answers to these existential questions facing the industry in an interview with Lisa Leonard, a pharma voiceover actor, as well as Jim Kennelly, the owner of Lotas Productions.

It’s a very intriguing conversation that you won’t want to miss. And after that, Lecia is here with a health policy update.

Today I’ll recap how a group of Democratic lawmakers are pushing Big Pharma to address the ongoing drug shortages.

This week, we’re talking about the flop around WeightWatchers’ Ozempic Hype House, Amy Schumer’s Cushing syndrome diagnosis and the Where is Wendy Williams? docuseries.

I’m Lasha bouchek senior reporter at mmm and I’m really excited to be here today with Lisa Leonard a voice actor for Pharma as well. As Jim Kennelly owner of lotus Productions live here with us in the studio.

Lisa has spent her voice acting career specializing in medical narrations, which she calls serving the healing World. Her expertise is in providing intelligent warm and reassuring voiceovers to projects and campaigns.

She’s able to turn dry technical scripts into a much more inviting listening experience.

Jim has his background as a location sound man for several years traveling around the world working on humanitarian crisis films, but he left the adventure life to take a job in New York with lotus Productions which specializes in voice over commercials starting out as an engineer then ultimately working up to a director producer and he now owns the company.

Lisa and Jim are both here to discuss what it’s like being a voice actor in Pharma and they have some crucial tips for healthcare marketers who may be working with voice actors in their campaigns. They’ll also help us break down the impact of AI in medical voice narration moving forward Lisa and Jim. Thanks so much for joining us very

happy to be here. Thanks for the invite

our pleasure. Looking forward to the conversation.

Now before we dive in I wanted to have you both give a little bit of background on how you ended up in voice narration specifically the healthcare and Pharma

area. Well, I’m gonna go way way back to sixth grade when I gave a speech in front of the entire student body on the stage at a microphone and running for Student Council Office afterwards. The teacher came up to me and said Lisa you have a very good speaking voice. You should consider doing something with that when you’re older so that really planted the seed into any teachers who may be listening right now. I thank you. I applaud you you never know when you’re gonna say something that’s gonna change somebody’s life because indeed that just set me on the right path and

All the years later, I went to college for mass communications. I got my degree started in the radio world as a radio journalist and then morphed into a radio disc jockey and then it was in that position when I had to record commercials for my job. So I suddenly became a voice actor a voiceover artist in the radio world and then that morphed into helping with some narrations of some technical scripts. I know a producer and he hired me those sessions went. Well. He told his producer friends about me and I’m just very happy to say that my network grew quite organically. This was before the internet was doing all that it can do now and over 20 years ago. I I got into the voice narration world and then Healthcare narration became a specialty that really found me. I just must have done some good jobs for some producers who worked in that field and they were just word of mouth and here I am today and I just love it grateful amazing. I love how that teacher was.

Really the one that planted the seed and it really led to you, you know here you are specializing in medical narration very cool.

So grateful.

I’ve always been interested in how people share their best ideas once another that’s a personal concern and that took me around the world working on humanitarian projects in the film business. But when I wanted to change my life and become a husband and a father, I took a studio job that specialized in voiceover casting and so I took my worldly experience my Global Experience and started to work with not just announcers in New York Chicago and La voices all around the world and in many different languages, so we could offer diversity in our casting and really drill down in a very vertical way.

Of course, we create voices and build voices on all platforms. So medical narrations Financial narrations, all the major topics are involved. Certainly Pharma is a huge business


Industry that needs communicating of ideas. So we go back to our roots of helping pharmaceutical companies medical companies doctors practitioners share their best ideas once to another to help their patient outcomes.

Wonderful. I love your trajectory from sort of you know, this worldly traveling on the world experiencing all of that and I’m sure you have some great stories there. But you know our audience I’m sure has worked with voice actors or will work with voice actors in some of their campaigns So Lisa. I was wondering if you could break down, you know sort of detail a typical day in the life of a voice actor. How you go about your daily work how you go about auditioning just our audience sort of understands, you know, your perspective here

sure auditions come in almost every day through a variety of places. There are some voice over specific online casting sites. There are agents that represent voice actors who will send the opportunities and then there’s some direct contacts like relationships that voice.

Actors have with production houses or casting directors and those auditions will come by way of email. I’ll take time to prepare and record those send them off and then get on to the next thing on the to-do list, which oftentimes is.

Medical narration and if so, I’ll read through the script look up any pronunciations that the client hasn’t provided that perhaps we could touch a little more on that a bit later and then just yeah get myself in the booth. I’ve got my iPad everything’s you know marked up if necessary and I record and then either I will do the editing or I will send the narration off to a woman who I work with who does some editing for me for the longer projects client interface client communication. I’ll do some social media. I’ll listen to podcasts like the mmm podcast and others and yeah and then got volunteer work. My dog needs me. I’ve got other things I take care. So anyway long answer to your question. What’s a day in the life of a voice actor?

And I know you both have a lot of insights that will be helpful to our audience of medical marketers to learn how they can best prepare to work with a voice actor to make the process as efficient as possible for someone who’s overseeing a video or audio production or e-learning how they can really prepare.


So can you start out with maybe what should be communicated to a voice actor in advance

one? That’s very important is what is the reason we’re doing this what is the intention of the project? Is it to sell something or to educate or to calm a nervous patient down? Right Jim you would agree each of those would require a totally different delivery.

We always ask the production company. Who’s this who’s forward-facing who’s going to hear this who’s gonna watch this video? It’s one of the first questions we ask when we go about the task of casting

right because for example if the audience is going to be Physicians and I’m recording, you know updates on on a research project. My delivery style is going to be like a peer like I’m very knowledgeable. I’m in this world with them and yet if it’s a patient narration right for a video that’s going to be shown in a waiting room before a patient has some procedure or test done. I’m gonna again sound knowledgeable and trustworthy, but I’ll do it with much more warmth and compassion.

Or on the flip side if it’s an isi just important safety information. You want someone like Lisa who can move through it very quickly very efficiently and just knock it out.


what about the actual script, you know medical marketers when they’re working on on these projects.

What kind of scripture they be providing the voice actor making sure that it’s proofread, you know, the pronunciation guides to names because you know in the medical world, there’s a lot of long terms and Technical terms and Medicine names that are confusing to say what could what could help them kind of get that ready?

Yeah, a few helpful suggestions here as for the pronunciation audio files can be a voice actor’s best friend and ultimately that can save time and money because it will prevent having to re-record something. So for example, if there’s a tricky company name or a pharmaceutical name a drug name that’s a little complicated the client can provide an audio file that has the name being pronounced slowly twice three times and then just do a little voice note on your on your cell phone send it off to the voice actor and that right there could be a gift and I’ll take you 10 seconds to record it but it can make all the difference and save what could be, you know, an hour’s worth of recording the original session and then if I wound up saying the name

Incorrectly I might have said it 30 times through the course of that narration. So think about all the time and money that that would take to fix. So instead of going for what could be a lengthy and possibly expensive Fix better to just take the extra few seconds to provide the pronunciation in advance. If an audio file isn’t possible you can always just type it out phonetically that’s helpful.

Right what we have in our experiences when we do a session bring Lisa in digitally into the session. We also connect to the directors and producers the client all very often in Lotus Productions. The client will have an expert on the line and that person may not be involved in the timings or the creative Direction but that person knows exactly how to say all these medical names how the product should be pronounced or even the flow of the context within some very complex paragraphs what we tend to do in our sessions is we raise it right now this afternoon, we’re doing a project for bgb group here in New York City. It’s a five minute video for YouTube explaining a

cool results

The script is broken down into paragraphs. So we’ll keep record each paragraph once or twice the producer will tell us witchcraft they like and then we’ll move on to the next graft five minute recording might take hour and a half two hours depending on the professional Talent we’ve hired but slowly we work through the script. We add it together all the best takes and then we send that off to the client to be matched to the video. So that’s how we go about it.

Listen. Another tip. I would like to give is to anybody who’s writing a script make sure that you’re writing for the ear and not just for the eye.


another thing that I think that a lot of your listeners may not know what they don’t know and so I’m really grateful for this opportunity to share things from from our perspective Jim and myself here. So for example oftentimes, I’ll get a script that has a slash in between two words. And so what am I supposed to do with that slash do I just say nothing do I say or do I say and if there’s a plus sign do I read that as Plus or positive? Is it a point a period or a DOT?


greater than or less than signs. Yeah, so symbols also could use some explanation as to how you want me to say this. It seems like a little thing but again, you know, people are just so used to writing for the eye and here we’re now in this other world of conveying information that people will be listening to so they have to be able to absorb it just with their ears not with their eyes. So, please tell us what the voice actor what we can do to help your your audience really understand

our experience when we’re hiring a professional Talent with specific Talent like Lisa that deals with medical narration. We always get the script in advance we get that script in advance. Maybe we get the video in advance or the storyboard in advance. It’s my responsibility as producer to check on timings to make sure the text is going to fit against the visual we get that script into at least this hands in advance. We trust that she will have read it two three times before we actually get together in the session. So we do we ask the question that I mentioned before.

Who’s this forward facing who’s going to listen to this project? And then I’ll turn to Lisa and say Lisa. Do you have any questions? So it gives Lisa the opportunity then to ask the client. How do you pronounce this? How is the context and and slowly we build this trust within the group of producers to create a great product.

Absolutely. And I think these you know, they seem like granular small things. But really when you’re prepared for this it can really make the whole process a lot quicker Smither safe time. And I know there’s other logistical tips that you both have there’s a whole way of finding voice actors through online casting sites ways to find voice talents and production house. And also how to prepare for directed session versus a home studio recording. So, can you provide some tips on all those as well

voice us or voiceover casting is an important part of the process because you want your brand or you want to communicate in exactly the right tone and style. So we get a sample of the script in advance Maybe

Paragraph or two. We have a discussion with the client as to what type of voice are they looking for us English UK English, maybe in Mandarin. Do you want to man or a woman? Is it open? Is it just any voice? Do you want someone younger twenties to 30s or you’re looking for a more mature voice again? Depending? What is it breast cancer? Is it prostates? What are we talking about? So we made adjust the voice actor and the audition to the product we audition for five six, maybe 12 people on a script we send that audition off to the client. They choose someone they choose Lisa great decision leases of women, and now these talents that we’re sending these scripts too are specifically scared to do medical narration. There are many different. It’s not just my neighbor has a good voice or I heard this person on a parel commercial. Let’s use her for him or her in another project. You want to find a voice that’s good at the

In the genre that you’re working in and medical narration is a specific genre in the voiceover business. There are people who are good at improvisation and they’re graded video games, but I would never cast a person in video games in a medical narration. So you really have to drill down to get the right voice. It takes a little time really we audition people as Lisa can tell you you audition overnight. It’s a 24-hour process and we can be up and running to produce something within 24 hours 48 hours

and I’ll also say that any of your listeners can contact myself Jim or any voice actor and we all know each other don’t we right? There’s just hundreds thousands of voice actors out there. There are Facebook groups LinkedIn groups for voice actors. So if if one of your listeners has a project you’re looking for a particular type of demographic gender sound whatever if I can’t do it. I absolutely know people and I can make some introductions and that would help you cast your project. So there’s a bunch of different ways.

And following up sort of on what you know what you said Jim about having a need to find someone who specializes in the medical genre Lisa. I wanted to ask you since you do specialize in the medical world. What kind of is behind that that expertise? How do you approach the the medical content versus what a voice actor who specializes in video games would you know, like what differentiates you from other voice actors?

Well, the key thing is the multi-syllabic words that you just don’t hear in a lot of other Industries. So that’s something that over the years. I’ve gotten very comfortable with and may I also credit my high school teachers for this because I took four years of Latin and I really do believe that although I hated it at the time that has provided a very good foundation for me to look at huge words and not be intimidated by them because I can see that they are broken down into a smaller bits that make some sense to my brain and my mouth. So that’s that’s a handy tool is take Latin if you can but if you can there’s just yeah experience training and

efficiency of the pronunciation and the confidence to learn and sound knowledgeable and trustworthy because in the end, I know Jim would agree that that is so important in the medical field is to sound like you know what you’re talking about and you want to help the listener understand it.

Focus concentration ease and delivery. These are the things that we’re listening for when we’re casting and hiring voice over talents for medical.


and there are a lot of intricacies in a medical narration script that other projects don’t involve. So research findings your contrasting, you know, this survey versus that study and then the percentage this percentage versus that percentage and all these things have to there’s some nuances that are very important and in a voiceover session. I do a lot of that. It’s rather subtle and I don’t think a lot of beginner voice actors generally get that but in time and after just working with hundreds thousands of scripts over the years you get to know what is important and what to stress and the industry specific. Jargon that all comes out rather flowingly rather naturally and I think that that’s more pleasant to hear than somebody who’s like struggling with with a complicated script. So there’s an ease that makes it easier to listen to a nicer to listen to

doctors and knowledgeable. They have a limited amount of time. You can only be in front of them for a specific moment. So you have to deliver the information maybe

Seconds, maybe two minutes very quickly very efficiently. You don’t want to tone where you’re talking down to them. You don’t need to explain it to them. This is a complicated subject, but they already get it. So you want to be have a talent who can move through it with ease confidence and really communicate the idea.

Right and the approach would be you know different for a patient group for example or Healthcare consumers where you know, you might have to deal with the nuances of like what sort of disease or condition they’re facing. You know, this is something that impacts their health and impacts their life. I would imagine that takes a lot of nuance skill as well depending on the therapeutic area and the patient group and things like that.

Someone’s been recently diagnosed. No, we have to explain the procedure of how we’re going to take care of you very important information has to be absorbed in a certain way and explained maybe now opposite of a doctor right now. You want to slow it down. It’s for the consumer you want to make them feel confident that this is going to help them maybe them or a family member Lisa. Obviously, very good at that.

Thank you, Jim and also, you know, I’ll share I’ve struggled with anxiety. I don’t necessarily love going to the doctor and waiting for a test result. I mean really who does but that is the reality and that is something that we’re in this industry where we’re motivated to try to help people, right?

And so this is a wonderful opportunity for us with the work that we do to help make that 30 minutes in that waiting room.

Less stressful right less anxiety provoking and and just reassuring when appropriate and when possible that actually gives me some some nice satisfaction in the work that I do knowing that with a calm reassuring voice. I can hopefully make that patient experience a little bit better and

whether it’s a new drug or a new clinical result, it goes back to helping that client share its best ideas one to another


what it’s all about

and I wanted to turn our conversation over to the future but and to something that we’ve all been talking about and hearing about a lot in healthcare AI.

And Jim I wanted to turn to you because I know that you are experiencing a lot of changes with AI in the industry and I wanted to ask you how is AI currently being used in voice acting

sure a Lotus Productions. We have a managed synthetic voice division, which means everything we do in traditional voiceover casting and audio production. We now do with synthetic voices.

So how is it being used and how will it what we tend to tell Talent is it’s going to supplement and augment your voiceover experience what we’re having a lot of success in we ask Lisa to read a the skeleton of a narration 90 seconds, maybe two minutes. We then we take that skeleton of a narration and if we need to insert every County name in Pennsylvania as opposed to having Lisa read every County name we can now synthetically generate that name and put it into a narration and so we start to hyper personalize content and personalized content more vertically driven after the casting of the voice that leads to better outcomes. That’s the challenge that we’re facing obviously with with the new technology anytime. There’s cautious optimism, which is which is well placed, but you can see particularly in medical marketing the interest and the investment is growing.

And I think across a lot of Industries. There’s been talk of this fear that AI will replace the human element, you know, whether it’s actors on screen or writers or voice actors, but from what you’re experiencing now, you’re basically saying that probably won’t happen. They probably won’t replace voice actors entirely. Um, you’re still using them, you know to record their voice so that you can use a synthetic voice. They’re still there to provide that human element and expertise. Can you talk a little bit about that and maybe what that would look like in the future

right synthetic voice helps us speed up the delivery and again hyper personalize the information but in the end in the beginning you still need a voice actor to create even to create the synthetic voice, but the way we’re seeing it use mostly these days is again just we record someone live and then we add a synthetic version of their voice into the narration.

When you look at the future of VoiceOver in medical marketing, we already see the success of virtual assistants chatbots and what they can deliver they can deliver scheduling information Around the Clock content or assurances can come to patients medical medication suggestions.

AI can collect the data that comes from those experiences and then when you add a synthetic voice into it you start to get a hyper personalized experience and these hyper-focused hyperpersonalized experiences in our opinion will lead to consumer or patient outcomes that are more efficient that are more effective and can help them, you know succeed in their daily life. We do a lot of work with things Corporation and they create cutting-edge devices that are scales BP monitors wearables like watches. So once again AI can collect the data you add a synthetic voice into it and now you get a hyper focused personalized experience for the consumer or the patient and that leads to

better retention and better outcomes

and I wanted to bring in the this idea of trust because you know with someone like Lisa obviously trust is a big factor when you are, you know, communicating with patients or with doctors. You want your voice to come office trustworthy to whoever your audience is and Jim. I know you talked a little bit about building that trust with synthetic voices and the use of AI as well

absolutely important

again, it comes down to Nuance. I think the strength of having a human voice actor live in person is that

He or she will be able to touch those emotional notes, when and where it’s appropriate. I have great respect for the AI technology and certainly the work Jim is doing and the synthesized voices I know will in some ways replace some of the work that I would normally get paid to do but understanding that in respecting it, I’m also seeing a world where there’s going to be opportunity for for real life human lease of voice actor as well as robot Lisa voice actor, right?

No. No, they’ll always be a human in the equation. Yeah in medical marketing. We know now that you can with AI you can get the right message at the right time in front of the right person. You can buy time and and deliver your message. But in the end that message has to have the right content and more importantly what you’re asking about that message has to be trustworthy.

And so right now there’s a great effort by.

Companies like my own we’re coming together in specific. I work with a group called the openvoice network. The open Voice network is part of the Linux Corporation and we bring together designers developers lawyers.

Performers unions performers audio production companies and we all share information and we’re trying to create ways and educate people that they can trust these voices these news synthetic voices that will be part of our daily lives. It’s a big project but it’s a project that I’ve embraced and I’m really enthusiastic about we work on contracts. We work on contracts. We work on sharing information AI is still at its infancy. But if you take the time right now this year to start to learn about AI generative AI synthetic voices within one year, you’ll have learned so much and feel so much better about it and you’ll see how it applies to either a marketing career a voiceover career a production career or any other career that AI will be involved in.

I’d also like to add the Gemini over the years have attended several voice and AI conferences conventions and we have heard from experts from all around the world and there is no pushing this off any further. I mean it is here it is it is impacting our daily lives and it will continue to do more and more each day and and efficiency is is the key benefit it seems and the hyper personalization as Jim has mentioned earlier but you know, it’s an exciting time but also a time that is scary, right because voice actors can be exploited. I mean this we could do a whole other podcast episode on on the impact in the negative way, but I’m actually really excited about it and based on what Gemini have learned and and the people that we’re associating with and the people who want to learn how to do it right and to do it. Ethically right and to just help it serve people for good. That’s wonderfully exciting

to go forward with ethics and transparency. What’s exciting is that there’s no blueprint. We have to treat we have to

This industry right now and I always make the comparison late 20s early 30s radio was around the technology worked people put it in their homes. What were we going to do with it? We have the same moment now, but it would that radio industry was created by individuals just like all of us who went to work tried their best experimented went home at a daily life. But slowly slowly over a number of years radio became a major Communications.

Outlet, certainly AI voices synthetic voices generative AI will go through the same experience.

Absolutely. Yeah, we’re definitely heading in that direction and it sounds like there’s gonna be a lot of exciting new things happening in the in the voice acting world when it comes to AI but as we discuss there will always be benefits to having a human voice act to present. You know, there’s going to be space for them in this new world as well.


and coming back to you Lisa on that. You know, I was curious to wrap it up if you recall any therapeutic areas or projects that you did that really resonated with you or that you believe

really made an impact anything that comes to mind. Absolutely. I so clearly remember getting a script and being in the booth and recording this and feeling like

I have found my calling 100%

I was hired to be the voice guide for patients who would be going through a diagnostic test having to do with macular degeneration. So it’s my voice that’s giving them the instructions how many times to Blink when to look left when to look right? But the script also called on me to reassure them to say things like you’re doing great. Just two minutes more. We’re almost done and

In that moment. I thought I am.

Able to use right now like my whole being sorry. This sounds very very mushy. And and whoo, but I’m what I mean to say is that it enabled me to use my voiceover skills my warm and compassionate sound but also my empathy I really as I said struggling with anxiety. I know how terrified people can be when they’re, you know, dealing with a medical exam or a test. And so this was a chance where I felt like with my voice and with my voiceover skills, I could orally hold this patient’s hand and guide them through a really scary experience and guide them through what could be an intimidating or scary experience. So I I embrace that so much and it just felt like alright, I’m using like all my gifts right now and it felt great. So I’d love to have opportunities to do more of that patient care voice over in the future.

Yeah. I love that story. That’s really beautiful. Thank you for sharing. Thank you. Well, thank you so much. Both of you Lisa and Jim for joining us on the mmm podcast today and offering your perspective on being

Voice actor in The Farmer world, we really value your Insight and it was fun to also have you here in the studio live? If you’d like to learn a bit more about voice acting resources, you can find some links in the online version of this podcast episode. Thanks again for listening.

A group of Democratic lawmakers are calling on Big Pharma companies to address ongoing drug shortages – which are impacting hundreds of medications from chemotherapy treatments to mental health drugs.

Led by ranking member of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, Rep. Jamie Raskin, the group sent letters to Pfizer, Sandoz and Teva Pharmaceuticals detailing the impact of drug shortages on patients and hospital systems. They requested the pharma companies to take action to address the QUOTE “urgent need” for those drugs.

Shortages are affecting various cancer drugs – including carboplatin and cisplatin – as well as amoxicillin, a penicillin antibiotic. ADHD drugs like Adderall also currently face severe shortages.

In a letter addressed to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, the lawmakers said that while the U.S. has experienced cancer drug shortages in the past, the current one is QUOTE “particularly acute,” with the majority of hospital systems negatively impacted last year. They noted that QUOTE “oncology practices were forced to ration doses or provide less desirable alternatives to a patient’s recommended treatment.”

The letters also highlighted one of the root causes of generic drug shortages: Pharma companies often have less financial incentive to manufacture more generic drugs that are typically sold at a cheaper cost than branded medications.

The letter stated that: “It is extremely concerning that pharmaceutical companies may not be motivated to produce generic drugs like carboplatin, cisplatin, and methotrexate, because they are not as lucrative as producing patented brand name drugs. As a principal supplier of carboplatin, cisplatin, and methotrexate, it is critical that Pfizer continues to increase production of these life-sustaining cancer medications, even amidst potential lower profitability.”

The lawmakers requested information from Pfizer, Sandoz and Teva on the steps they are taking to address the current shortages – as well as how they plan to prevent future shortages. They’ve asked the pharma companies to provide responses by March 6. I’m Lecia Bushak, Senior Reporter at MM+M.

This is the part of the broadcast when we discuss what’s trending on healthcare social media.

Last week, Bloomberg published a story on the GLP-1 hype house sponsored by WeightWatchers, in which social media influencers told the publication that they were asked to promote a product they had “never tried.”

The day-long marketing event was supposed to promote WW’s new prescription obesity drug service, which we have mentioned on this show before. However, influencers said they were offered money from the brand to talk about the program, which helps users get GLP-1 prescriptions like Ozempic or Mounjaro, even though they hadn’t used the service before.

A few influencers also criticized WW’s decades-long approach to food and eating, with some claiming it contributed to their disordered eating.

The company didn’t respond to requests for comment from the outlet, citing a quiet period before reporting earnings at the end of the month.

Stocks of Weight Watchers International hit a 52-week low following the report’s publication and analysts have speculated that the company’s legacy is weakened amid the post-New Year’s diet season.

I wanted to get your thoughts on this because obviously you cover influencers quite frequently and this seems like one of those instances where a brand probably was trying to do something productive from their perspective, but obviously it kind of backfired in terms of mainstream media

coverage. Yeah.

It’s interesting that they weren’t able to find any influencers who were on the drugs because you know, I’ve written a story about GOP one influencers on tiktok and there’s plenty of them who have tried the drug and are happy to talk about their experiences on it both positive and negative. So it’s kind of funny that they weren’t, you know, they didn’t include influencers who actually had taken the drugs I would seem to be a sort of basic aspect of this campaign, but I also think it sort of highlights one of the

Challenges that marketers will have when it comes to advertising these obesity drugs there appears to be a fine line between promoting the drugs and promoting fat phobia and many people’s minds and is more and more from a company’s and Brands try to jump into the glp-1 market. It might be a challenge for marketers to sort of figure out how to best, you know craft messaging around these products and the associative services like the Weight Watchers program in the most effective and the best ways possible. I also think, you know, this this captures another conversation that’s been happening right now.

Which is sort of this like intersection of the body positivity movement with the emergence of glp-1 drugs, like randomly. There have been several articles. I came across today in the New York Times and NBC news that were actually exploring this this particular issue where somebody positivity influencers are seeing glp ones as setting their movement back. And so I think it’s going to be you know, one of these that the challenges and an important issue for marketers to kind of figure out as they dive further into the glp-1 space and sort of figure out how to balance their messaging around this. I

totally agree. I was having a conversation a couple weeks ago with a disability rights Advocate and they were talking about how when they look at the wellness space. They see a lot of ableist language that comes into play and your point is so well received as it relates to the idea of like promoting that phobia or fat phobic ideas instead of you know talking about hey these things could help you with X Y and Z aspect.

Your life if you’re framing it in a way where it’s like you have to lose weight because then you are somehow a more virtuous or redeemable person. That’s where you get into a lot of trouble and I Echo your point earlier too the idea that they couldn’t find people that had used this service which granted it hasn’t been out that long but you would think that if you’re gonna be bringing these people on and saying hey, we’re gonna give you sponsorship or have you at the house or something you would at least want them to have tried the product. I don’t know. I don’t think that’s asking too much there

right for sure. Yeah. I think that’s a sort of a basic requirement for a campaign like this. So, you know, I guess it’s a lesson for marketers to take away.

Absolutely, not everything we mentioned on the show can always be so positive. But if there’s one lesson that people can take away from this and maybe be a little more mindful in their approach to their marketing attempts. That’s all the better.

Over the weekend, comedian Amy Schumer announced that she was diagnosed with Cushing syndrome.

In recent media appearances, fans have noticed that Schumer’s face was looking puffy, leading to speculation as to what the cause was.

Now, she has confirmed that she has a rare hormonal disease that occurs from too much cortisol and can cause weight gain, high blood pressure and bone loss. Cushing syndrome can be treated with medication, radiation therapy or surgery.

Schumer cited the speculation online as one of the factors that contributed to her seeking treatment and resulted in a diagnosis that she described as freeing.

“I feel reborn. There are a few types of Cushing. Some that can be fatal, require brain surgery or removal of adrenal glands,” Schumer said in Jessica Yellin’s “News Not Noise” newsletter. “While I was doing press on camera for my Hulu show, I was also in MRI machines four hours at a time, having my veins shut down from the amount of blood drawn and thinking I may not be around to see my son grow up.”

Yeah, you know it’s it’s unfortunate that she act like, you know, the the reason why she went to go to the doctor and get checked out was because she got so much negative feedback on social media about her appearance and a lot of body image backlash, which was very unfortunate that that was sort of the reason why she decided to get checked out but fortunate that it ended up being a not super serious diagnosis fortunately. She she’s mentioned that she had the kind of Cushing syndrome that can basically be treated on its own and sort of she’ll be able to recover perfectly fine from it. So that’s good to hear. I know she’s been posting on Instagram a lot since then basically sort of being open about that and also trying to push back against some of them misogynistic hateful comments that she got about her appearance. I know she’s not the first female celebrity to have the spotlight on their their appearance when in reality. It’s actually a medical issue that’s contributing to

Pain, or you know looking a certain way. I know Selena Gomez has also had a lot of attention due to weight gain. I believe she has some medical issues as well that contribute to that. So, you know, it’s something that I feel females celebrities have to Grapple with a lot unfortunately, but overall good news to hear that. She’s she’s going to be okay and she’ll recover well from this. So

yeah you talk about it leads perfectly in from our previous story about Weight Watchers, where there is this whole idea of like, oh if you look heavier or anything like that, that is somehow a judgment on your character and your points will take about Selena Gomez dealing with lupus all these years and these side effects that can have on the body.

Where is Wendy Williams?

Lifetime endeavored to find out in a four-part docuseries that aired over the weekend.

The daytime talk show legend was diagnosed with dementia and aphasia late last week before the docuseries debuted. Some may recall that the Oscar-nominated actor was diagnosed with aphasia in 2022 and frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

FTD is the most common form of dementia for people under the age of 60 and affects between 50,000 to 60,000 people in the U.S., according to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration. It often takes an average of just over three-and-a-half years to obtain an FTD diagnosis following the first symptoms.

The series documents the physical and mental decline of Williams, who was placed under a financial guardianship by the New York State Supreme Court in May 2022.

She was placed under a financial guardianship by the New York state supreme court, which is where things start to get messy. It’s where I want to bring less into the conversation because in seeing some of these clips and coverage online, you would never allow somebody in that state to be presented in that way, but we’re not even sure that Williams has her own control over that the moment.

I mean full disclosure. I have not seen the new series and I was just doing some brief reading on this before hopping on I guess I have more questions and I have answers or commentary at this point. I have a lot of questions because it seems like I’ve actually very complicated situation and my first question when I was reading about it that came up was

Was sort of like is this series being a bit exploitative of a person who does have, you know, front of temporal dementia and is under a conservatorship right. Now. She has a legal guardian. I believe since 2022 that’s not her family sort of controlling her decision-making because of her cognitive issues that she’s had the last few years. So my my initial question is, you know, I from my understanding she still listed as an executive producer on this series and her family is involved and she’s obviously consenting to being filmed to an extent but given her recent diagnosis. It does bring up a lot of questions about whether this series is being a bit exploitative of someone who might be dealing with a lot of difficulties that shouldn’t be airing for people to kind of, you know, watch as drama for their own enjoyment. I guess that’s one of my initial questions and then I have questions about sort of the cons.

Internship as well because for my understanding the legal guardian filed a lawsuit trying to block the series from airing which ended up being thrown out in the series was series was aired but there was apparently some reason for for that person’s desire to block the series from airing but Wendy Williams did release a statement recently following the the announcement of Her diagnosis. So this is directly from the source apparently and her statement was that she had immense gratitude for the love and kind words.

Quote, let me say wow, you’re response has been overwhelming. The message is shared with me have touched me reminding me of the power of unity and the need for compassion and she also noted I hope that others with FTD May benefit from my story. I continue to need personal space and peace to thrive.

So just wanted to throw that that statement directly from Wendy Williams in there as well that she is aware that Her diagnosis has been made public and she seems to be supportive of sort of this idea of raising awareness about the issue.

And it’s so I’m glad that you raise those questions Lasha because it’s so tough to like delve into something like this given that there is so much nuance and like we were talking about there is unfortunately a test case that you can kind of follow where you know, Bruce Willis’s family has basically pulled him out of public life. Like he no longer does movies, even the golden raspberries. They had kind of mocked his last few years and making movies rescinded the award they gave him after they figured out that he was diagnosed with Aphasia because

Because that wasn’t his doing, you know, you’re just not cognitively aware. You can’t exist in the world. And the thing that’s been troubling in watching part of the series and seeing the Clips online. She is still in a way kind of being trotted out into the world and it’s allowed confusing environment for anybody. Let alone somebody who’s dealing with these sorts of issues. So your point about it being exploitative is so well received because on the one hand we’re seeing a family saying we’re not going to subject them to this on the other hand. We don’t even know if it’s the family at that point. It’s under somebody completely different, you know, does she even have the wherewithal to make these decisions?


And typically I think people with Dementia or FTD like as in the case with Bruce Willis, the families are often, you know, the ones making the decisions to either keep this public or private. Obviously the family doesn’t have legal guardianship over Williams at this point. So it’s a bit of a mess from that perspective. But you know as it often is with these celebrities announcing their medical diagnoses that the Silver Lining I hope is that it will continue to raise awareness for FTD and also just mental health in general because I know that Williams had struggled with a lot of mental health issues throughout her life including substance abuse issues and anytime that a celebrity can sort of raise awareness and say, hey other people aren’t alone and dealing with these things. I think it’s hopefully a silver lining

and your point so well taken about the substance abuse issues. I’m writing about this for my column this week about the doc you series and raising the profile of

Mentioned Aphasia, but that’s something that can’t be overlooked. Like there is a long documented history of Wendy Williams issues with recreational drug use and other concerns like that over the years and I spoke with a substance abuse expert from UCLA who was talking about how that can contribute in some cases to dementia down the line and that’s something that can’t

it could exactly yeah.

Yeah, you can’t separate the two. So I think it’s important consideration there. I don’t know if I can encourage, you know, usually when we bring these things up like, oh you should go check out this documentary egotion check out this movie or something. I don’t know in good conscience. I can encourage people to but I think understanding the points that we talked about here in terms of how complicated this is just go into it with that mindset. I know we don’t usually like to leave the show and I sour note but I appreciate our audience for kind of bearing through some some more challenging questions and topics there and their Trend segment. I think you all for joining us on this week’s episode. Be sure to listen next week’s episode. We have a very special guest can’t reveal.

Is but it involves some major medical marketing news. So tune in for next week. That’s my tease.