A Marketing Gig I Want

From Seth’s Blog: A marketing gig I don’t want:

Not sure anyone does…

The FDA just approved the Gardasil vaccine, which protects women against cervical cancer and some sexually transmitted diseases. It’s a breakthrough that could save thousands of lives every year.

The thing is, it costs $360 and needs to be given by injection to girls before they become sexually active–about 12 is what they’re recommending. And, since it’s a vaccine, there are fears about long-term effects.

So, let’s try to imagine that conversation taking place across the dinner tables and examination rooms across America… The idea that parents can be reached and then persuaded to confront these issues, in our culture, is a little overwhelming.

A reminder that marketing is always about a lot more than just facts.

Actually, Seth, I do! Social marketers deal with this type of product all the time. Getting people to eat less of their favorite foods, wear a condom or get a colonoscopy — not easy sells — is what we do in social marketing.

We would need to figure out what the key values are of the parents (who would likely make the decision) and appeal to those things that are most important to them — feeling like a good parent, taking care of their daughters’ health, making sure that their daughter will not have reproductive problems in the future. And, God forbid, the worst thing a parent can imagine is their child getting cancer — what wouldn’t they do or pay to prevent that from happening?

Position the vaccine as preventing cervical cancer rather than focusing on anything that might suggest that their daughter would even consider becoming sexually active until she is an adult. Get the CDC to add the vaccine to their recommended immunization schedule so that doctors will provide it as a matter of course with other teen booster shots so that parents won’t feel like the recommendation comes from a negative judgment of them or their daughters. Get insurance companies to cover some of the costs of the vaccination since they will have fewer cases of cervical cancer and STDs to pay for later. The fears about long-term effects may be addressed by comparing the risks of the vaccine to other similar products and showing that the benefits far outweigh the possible risks.

Seth, this is eminently doable — though admittedly not a piece of cake. I have no doubt that the marketing department of whatever pharmaceutical company created the vaccine is already grappling with some of these issues. But if they want any help, I’m here.


  1. I hope they pick you!

    the world sure needs it.

  2. The vaccination has more potential implications than what the FDA has approved. For instance, since HPV is a sexually transmitted disease then males are carriers also. Why not extend the indications to include adolescent males. Unfortunately, those studies are not yet done or in the process of being done. Secondly, Cervarix – the vaccine created by GlaxoSmithKline which is probable due out later this year – has shown protection in females ages 19-55. The FDA may also broaden Gardasil’s indications to include that age group.

    In regards to marketing, I feel that it may not be that difficult. Most females that live in my area of practice already know to get annual PAP smears with HPV testing once they become sexually active. Getting a vaccine can’t be as difficult as getting a PAP smear.

Submit a Comment