Sally and Her Pills

In 1993 I watched from behind the glass as a focus group of young women unanimously agreed about the most useful thing to their morning routine. It was a morning radio disc jockey’s “Color of the Day” feature.

All they had to do was to listen for the color of the day, then choose an outfit of that color. One less decision to be made by busy wives and mothers during the most hectic part of their day.

The ladies perceived local traffic to be a major issue, too, even though none of the men we interviewed shared their opinion (or for that matter found any value in the Color of the Day). Those features would be useless clutter to a radio station trying to attract as listeners the men we interviewed.

But a station attempting to gain the ladies in my story as listeners would be well advised to add morning traffic reports to their Color of the Day.

What’s meaningful to one group of people is frequently meaningless to another.

As marketers we need to understand the people we’re targeting. We need to appreciate the topics they believe to be important, and craft messages which talk about those issues at an emotional level appropriate to the strength of their belief.

We don’t care what non-prospects think of our message.

In the focus group example the things the women found valuable, the men thought silly. (Tuck that away for the next time someone wants an ad to reach “everybody”). But when it came to the Color of the Day or a morning traffic report, it didn’t matter whether those men reacted at all. They were not the target.

I direct your attention to Roche Pharmaceuticals and GlaxoSmithKline’s current television ad for Boniva.

Boniva is the trade name for ibandronatef. It’s prescribed as a treatment for osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Sally Field is their celebrity spokesperson. Since her osteoporosis diagnosis in 2005 she has taken Boniva to build bone mass.

The ad opens on a close-up of Ms. Field.

My girlfriend and I were talking about osteoporosis and she told me she has to set aside time one morning every week to take her osteoporosis pill. I said, “I take once monthly Boniva. It fits my routine.” And she said “That I can do.” Boniva helps build strong, healthy bones to prevent fractures with just one pill a month. With all I do for bone health Boniva fits right in.

Now, despite the derogetory comments of two gentlemen friends of mine, I’m betting that the research indicates post menopausal women find setting aside time to swallow a pill to be a real issue.

My friends opined that worrying about the time required to swallow one pill a week is ridiculous. But then, they still don’t really believe the surveys which show women prefer chocolate to sex. And frankly, we don’t CARE what they think. Neither of these gentlemen will ever purchase Boniva, or recommend it. To Boniva’s marketers, my friends don’t even exist.

The ad ends with,

Sally Field: Ask your doctor if Boniva is right for you. My girlfriend is so glad she did.

Announcer: Don’t wait another week. Ask your doctor for a free trial offer or call one eight hundred four Boniva.

In your experience, is pill swallowing, (or more accurately the setting aside of time to swallow pills), an issue for post menopausal women?

Please post your thoughts while I’m gone. I’m stepping out to buy some chocolate stock.


  1. Anonymous

    Rather than difficulty in setting aside the time to take the once-per-week pill, it’s actually more that post-menopausal women can’t REMEMBER to take the once-per-week pill even after putting out post-it notes on the fridge and Outlook reminders in the computer. Taking the once-per month pill may be easier since husbands or partners can say “hey Honey, it’s the first of the month, time to take that bone stuff, here’s the bottle”.

  2. Anonymous

    Setting time aside to swallow a pill for this 43 year-old man is not an issue. Whether it is an issue for post-menopausal women, I could not say and I’d be too scared to approach one and ask.

    Canadian Man

  3. Anonymous

    As a post-menopausal woman, I can tell you that it’s not the time to swallow, gents. The drug must be taken first thing in the morning, before food or drink, and you must stay upright and basically immobile for at least 30 minutes. The drug tends to upset your stomach, which means you MUST eat after 30 minutes and then wait for the nausea to pass before starting your day. Women really DO have to schedule this stuff…

  4. Anonymous

    I am a man.

    The real question is: how “big” or “small” do I believe my bone density problem to be?

    If I were a woman and the problem was BIG (real or imagined) I sure as heck would *not* be taking no darn pill. Instead, I’d be taking extra supplements of calcium and doing muscle-strengthening excercises.

    Besides, why do we want to continue making the drug companies richer? But I digress…

  5. Carol

    What you don’t seem to know is that you must not drink or eat anything before taking your weekly pill, or for at least an hour after. You must also be sure not to lie down. These pills can give you incredible acid indigestion. So don’t knock the monthly vs. weekly unless you have had to try it! This is the only alternative for those of us diagnosed with osteoporosis.

  6. Bob

    As a male, I found the concept ridiculous, however, I too assume their research must indicate otherwise. OR is Boniva trying to CREATE the concept that setting time aside for pill swallowing is an issue?

    I found another post here that said:
    “What you don’t seem to know is that you must not drink or eat anything before taking your weekly pill, or for at least an hour after. You must also be sure not to lie down.”
    If this is the case, then Boniva is REALLY onto something.

  7. Anonymous

    I know that my wife takes the ones weekly… because the doctor says that these are the right ones for her… it is not the time it takes to take the pill it is the time… like don’t drink coffee in the morning can’t eat or do anything else for 1/2 hour…


    I really like the Viagra drug ads which say find us in Golf Digest… well if Golfers need this drug I won’t be picking up golf as a hobby…

  8. Anonymous

    I am a woman and I hate the ad about “setting aside time” to take Boniva. Good grief!