On the 21st April, the FDA issued a warning letter to Novartis regarding http://www.gistalliance.com and http://www.cmlalliance.com (currently down) conveying their opinion that the sites represented branded promotional material for Gleevec (imatinib mesylate).
The websites are perceptually similar to the Novartis Gleevec product website, incorporating similar color schemes (including a distinct orange), design layouts and other presentation elements
If a disinterested observer considers the conclusion that the FDA reached regarding the claimed perceptual similarity between the sponsored websites and branded promotional material to be valid, it does beg the question: what kind of stunt is being pulled here?
Is a desire on pharma’s part to camouflage rather than abandon its promotional activities hereby disclosed?
If so, a fundamental misunderstanding within the industry of the nature of the dynamics of such environments is revealed.
It is a category error to perceive the social web to be a haven for the promotion of product rather than the promotion of conversation.
The social web belongs to info, to convo, but never to promo. Those pharma campaigns that endeavour to hypnotize their audiences through their utilization of supra-subtle echoes of or allusions to their existing brand semiotics truly deserve to be called out as what John Mack has immortalized in another context as sleazy spam. Conversely, those that renounce such dubious methods will be commensurately rewarded with positive brand-trust reinforcement.
It is to be hoped that the industry will regard such salutory warnings as a spur to hastening on the migration of their activities within the social web from the offering of tricksy hybrid promotions that benefit nobody towards finding ways to filter clean, clear information to clinicians and patients.
In so doing, the industry will bolster trust with key stakeholders, broaden, deepen and strengthen its engagement with them, manifest a real commitment to decoupling itself from the promotional economy and securing itself to the relational, conversational economy, and credential itself as a concern that embodies a commitment to supporting the communities it claims to want to sustain.