Pfizer’s Artificial Ad

What do the pharmaceutical industry and the filmmaking industry have in common? They both employ the art of illusion.

The pharmaceutical industry has elevated cholesterol to become their biggestcash cow. Pfizer’s (PFE)Lipitor is the world’s best-selling drug ($12.7 billion in 2007). With the arrival of generic statins, Pfizer decided it needed to protect its prize.

Pfizer paid Dr. Robert Jarvik $1.35 million to appear in its Lipitor ads. Now a congressional committee is examining Dr. Jarvik’s role in promoting Lipitor. Dr. Jarvik is not a cardiologist and he is not licensed to practice medicine. And he doesn’t row either.

Early Lipitor commercials showed Dr. Jarvik wearing a white coat to give the illusion that he is a practicing physician and heart disease authority. Then Pfizer had Dr. Jarvik take to the outdoors, and that’s where Hollywood comes in. The commercial that showed Dr. Jarvik rowing across a lake was a stunt double. According to The New York Times, “the frames that actually included Dr. Jarvik were shot in a rowing apparatus on a platform.”

How is that any different than the opening scene in the 1995 James Bond film Goldeneye, where Bond (played by Pierce Brosnan), bungee jumps off a dam? I remember Brosnan at the time describing how the frames had to be perfectly coordinated between the close up shots of his movements in the studio to what his stunt double was doing, to give the illusion that it was Brosnan bungee jumping.

The difference is we’re under no illusions that movies are fiction. Pfizer wants you to believe it’s real.

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