Since my address is posted on the blog I get a fair amount of unsolicited email from the MS drug companies. An interesting one came in on Tuesday that I thought bore comment. Serono has setup a new website
How I fight MS. The premise seems simple enough; five MS’ers telling of their struggle with MS via video, blog entries, and their personal story. There are many things about this site that left me uncomfortable and asking questions.
Other than being the white face of MS they took four existing female MS bloggers and then a “token” male (because there are males with MS too!). Why are the posts so short? These bloggers tend to write decently long pieces about various things. Did Serono mandate the length or did they cut it? Certainly a unifying theme too. Based on the content, that Serono is overseeing, it seems to build hope, confidence, and reassure. The content almost seems whitewashed.
When I saw the a couple of the videos my thought was that these were professionally made. My suspensions were confirmed. My other thought was that they are also getting paid, which was also confirmed by Julie’s statement “My Paid Blogging Gig (And, no, they don’t pay me to pimp their drugs)” and her reply in the comments. I applaud Julie’s optimism. Let’s do a quick marketing 101 course. Serono certainly wants to appear altruistic but they are in the business of selling drugs, and in the case of MS very expensive ones. If they get real MS’ers to speak on their site the MS’ers image and creditability get shared with Serono. That helps them sell expensive drugs. That is also why they are very interested in the content of the messages; probably mostly so the site will attract their target audience. Julie, you are getting paid to pimp their image which really is pimping their drugs.
For a low budget marketing endeavor I think Serono picked an excellent group of people that will help them significantly. Julie was optimistic and rejected Herrad’s comment that she lost integrity, though he later recanted. I agree that you compromise your integrity when you accept money especially from a drug company even if you were naive as to their true intentions. Money had to be the motivator, especially for the ones with blogs. They were already doing everything but video on their blog; if they wanted to do video that is something that could be done on their blog on their terms (and for minimal cost if they needed a webcam). I do wonder how much money they got for doing the bit, money that will cost you your integrity.
After all of that I will conclude by saying I too would be a shill if the right size bag of money came upon my door. Heck I could probably even be a shill for Mannatech, but that would have to be two very large bags of money. 😉