FDA: Protecting You From Blue Balls

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In the most compelling evidence yet that the Decade of the Penis is long gone, the Food and Drug Administration has ordered Pfizer to cancel its "Wild Thing" Viagra ads—the ones with the middle-age-crazy douchebag whose head grows a set of cuckold's horns that turn into the letter V (for "Viagra," I assume).

In her letter to Pfizer, FDA Regulatory Review Officer/TV Critic Christine Hemler Smith says the erectile dysfunction drug is not all the commercial cracks it up to be:

The TV ads claim that Viagra will provide a return to a previous level of sexual desire and activity. They refer to the sexually active past of the man (e.g., "Remember that guy who used to be called 'Wild Thing'?") and then declare "He's back," implying that, by taking Viagra, he has returned to that previous level of sexual desire and activity. FDA is not aware of substantial evidence or substantial clinical experience demonstrating this benefit for patients who take Viagra. If you have data substantiating this claim, please submit them to FDA for review.

This reading strikes me as being almost as literal-minded as Lionel Hutz's false-advertising suit against the film The Neverending Story, as does Smith's objection that the ad fails to specify what condition Viagra is intended to treat (though the objection that the ad fails to spell out potential side effects seems legitimate under the current rules of engagement). From Smith's close reading:

"Remember that guy who used to be called 'Wild Thing?'" (Man watching wife examine high-heeled shoe in store)
"The guy who wanted to spend the entire honeymoon indoors?" (Man looking at high-heeled shoe in store)
"Remember the one who couldn't resist a little mischief?" (Man gazing at black bra, panties, and negligee in store window)…

I guess it's possible you might misinterpret the idea of "mischief" (he might be planning to shoplift the bra and panties for an undisclosed personal reason), but note that Smith assumes the woman with Wild Thing is in fact his wife—an assumption that can be inferred though not proven from the context. With approximately 108 percent of the population already aware of Viagra's purpose, won't a similar inference will be made here? In fact, "reminder" ads like this one are designed for situations where product awareness is nearly universal and the manufacturer is just trying to keep the name in circulation.

In an interesting Wall Street Journal article (not online), Scott Hensley and Suzanne Vranica place the Wild Thing spot in the context of Viagra's plummeting sales (under pressure from GlaxoSmithKline's Levitra and Eli Lilly and Co.'s Cialis, which is supposed to be longer-acting) and product maturity. Glaxo and Lilly are each spending nearly twice as much on advertising as Pfizer. (By my estimate, Lilly is spending all of its $101 million semi-annual budget on spam.)

In its third-quarter earnings report, Pfizer laid out its Wild Thing strategy:

Pfizer has launched a new global positioning for Viagra, focusing on what men really want from their erectile-dysfunction medication: rapid and sustained erections for better sex. This positioning provides healthcare professionals and consumers with data showing Viagra's ability to deliver unique functional and emotional benefits and provide overall patient and partner satisfaction. As part of this new direction, Pfizer has launched a fresh U.S. advertising campaign called "He's Back" that communicates the promise of return to normal sexual function.

All for naught, it seems. According to the Journal, "Wild Thing" isn't performing as well as Pfizer's previous "Bob" ad campaign, about a guy whose co-workers can't figure out why he's always smiling. (In case the FDA's Professor Smith is reading this: Bob is smiling because he's got a hard-on.)

NEXT: "less predictable and more interesting"; "an oasis of sharp writing"; "a fresh and nuanced antidote"... (veiled subscription pitch)

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  1. I’m hardly a blushing prude, but I find the “Bob” commercials both unfunny and more than slightly creepy. Luckily I don’t see them often, and when I do the mute button or channel change is a lot less tiresome than listening to some FDA fuckknuckle yammering on about protecting us from ourselves.

  2. My reaction to this post was to feel relief that the ad wasn’t being targetted by the FCC for its sexual content.

    How sad is that?

  3. God, that ad is just right for a football game. I saw it last night for the first time on MNF. I mean, talk about the target audience… middle aged guys dreaming about the glory days. It’s just hilarious social commentary. I’ll miss it.

  4. Reminds me of the time that I scored four touchdowns in one game.

  5. Woah, while trying to post this
    “joe, me too. I’m still waiting for that shoe to drop.”

    I got this for the first time
    “In an effort to curb malicious comment posting by abusive users, I’ve enabled a feature that requires a weblog commenter to wait a short amount of time before being able to post again. Please try to post your comment again in a short while. Thanks for your patience.”

    How new is that message?

  6. It’s at least a month old.

  7. Shorter FDA: the stuff will get you wood, but it won’t make you want to do anything with it. I think I read that right.

    At least that ad isn’t couched in cheezy sports metaphors. Get back in the game! Plus the wife is hot, though you do wonder what she’s doing with a dork like that. What pill makes the dork go away?

  8. Cuckolds’ horns grow from the forehead, not from in back like old Wild Thing’s. The little stubby horns in the ad are not a good image for the product anyway, since the size of a devil’s horns is proportional to the size of his other members…isn’t it? Of course, if it is inversely proportional then that aspect of the ad is probably objectionable too.

  9. Yeah I was under the impression Bob was smiling because his dick had recently gotten bigger, but that he didn’t actually have a hard-on during the commercial. There was one where he was in a Japanese restaurant with Japanese businessmen, and while I don’t know what Bob is into, I would imagine he wouldn’t pop a pill to make him hard just before an important business meeting.

  10. The “horns” commercials are just cringe-worthy…pure juvenile fantasyland. I’m glad that they’re being yanked, but I wish that it had been because consumers thought they were idiotic and sales were tanking, rather than due to government mandate.

    Still, can’t argue with the end result.

  11. david,

    What?? What about their freedom of speech?

  12. News! The “Enzyte Bob goes to Japan” has been pulled (no pun intended) because of PC concerns. (“PC” could stand for all kinds of things here.)

    You can get the full scoop (and see the commercial) here:

    http://www.asianmediawatchdog.com/enzyte/enzyte.html

  13. News! The “Enzyte Bob goes to Japan” has been pulled (no pun intended) because of PC concerns. (“PC” could stand for all kinds of things here.)

    From that article:
    We find it offensive because it promotes the stereotype of the Japanese businessman who doesn?t speak English.

    What about the offensive stereotype about the American businessman who doesn’t speak Japanese?

  14. I’m sorry, isn’t Bob (or Joe, whoever) smiling because he’s going to get laid, not because he’s currently got a hard on? I mean, a hard on while weaving your way through a roomful of people you know wouldn’t necessarily make you smile, it would make you feel conspicuous, I would think.

  15. “Bob” was much more disturbing than “Wild Thing”, if only because of the expression on his wife’s face. I’ve seen horrors …

  16. Of course, I’m not in the market for this stuff, as I am a (happily?) unmarried man, but if I was, the commercial that would sell me is the one for Dr. Porkenheimer’s Boner Juice.

    `Cause that may be because I think Amy Pohler is hot. Not “Tina Fey hot”, but still pretty hot. 🙂

    Kevin

  17. “News! The “Enzyte Bob goes to Japan” has been pulled (no pun intended) because of PC concerns. (“PC” could stand for all kinds of things here.)”

    I hate to sound PC, but I’m kind of glad that they pulled that particular ad. The implication that Japanese males have small genitals and that their women secretly lust after the privates of Western males is way out of line for my tastes.

    Of course, I won’t be happy until Enzyte fades away total since it’s utter and complete snake-oil.

  18. I understand that some guys have legit medical problems that result in flaccid members, but I can’t help but think the vast majority are douchebags who are overcome by the stress of everyday life. Jesus, the men in this country are pathetic.

  19. hey jb!

    no kidding. what about the “bob and carol and ted and alice” bit at the end of one of the enzyte ads.

    quackwatch.org/02ConsumerProtection/enzyte.html

    enjoy.

    cheers,
    drf

  20. The implication that Japanese males have small genitals and that their women secretly lust after the privates of Western males is way out of line for my tastes.

    Didn’t James Clavell prove this in “Shogun”?

  21. I’d just like to thank the FDA for looking out for me. Granted, I’m not stupid enough to believe everything that I see on TV, so I never would have believed that when I’m 50 a pill will restore me to my current vigor. Still, it’s so sweet of them to worry about me like that.

    Thanks, guys! I’m not actually the idiot that you think I am, but I guess it’s the thought that counts!

  22. thoreau, my demi-paisan, given our shared heritage, this isn’t something we have to worry about.

    Didn’t you ever see the Woody Allen movie “The Sleeper?”

  23. joe-

    Never saw the movie. What’s it about?

    Are you also part Italian like me?

  24. By the time I hit my 50’s, I assume that anti-ED drugs will come with a complimentary bottle of Doan’s Pills, for when I put my back out trying to relive my days as a “wild thing.”

    Or I’ll sue! 🙂

    Kevin

  25. Maybe if we get all the baby boomers fucking like bunnies 24/7 they’ll need less money for romantic vacations and won’t spend as much money, therefore, we can cut back their social security benefits. Maybe they’ll stay home and forget about politics too. Somebody get working on that female libido enhancement!

  26. I am SOOO sick of Bob and Enzyte. It was pulled off the air in Asia and I think it should be pulled off the air here. We can’t let Janet Jackson have a “wardrobe malfuction” because it is too direct, but we can let some annoying guy that has a smile as big as his dick (supposedly) advertise this product. Isn’t there a way to “cool it down” a little?? If the FCC wants to clean up TV, start HERE!!!!

  27. Gee!! What a bunch of whiney liberals! Anybody that wants the FEDS watching out for them (FCC,FDA) among them, has a problem. Free enterprize is what this country thrives on. You dont have to watch the commercial or like it. Frankly I am tired of all the female hygene or vaginal dryness or tampon vaccuum pad commercials but I dont whine about it or hope the FEDS take control over whats on TV! I think the Enzyte commercials are hilarious. And NO I dont believe that a pill can restore size and vigor. Take the commercial for what it is..entertainment!

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