The Importance of Advertising

Advertising is a vital aspect to the success of any type of product in today’s command economy.  With new modifications being made to contraceptive devices on a regular basis, advertisements are the most effective way to keep consumers informed and up to date on the newest goods within the market.  It hasn’t always been so easy for consumers to gain information about the newest contraceptive methods and devices however.  By examining the development of the advertisements we see so regularly today as well as what they had to go through legally in order to even present these advertisements, one is better able to understand just how complex contraceptives can really be.

Pamphlets to Public Service Announcements

Should unsolicited direct mail advertisements for contraceptives be permitted?  In the 1983 case Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corp., the Supreme Court was asked that very same question.  In early 1979, Youngs sought to mail advertisements in the form of flyers and informational pamphlets describing contraceptive products with a particular emphasis on those sold by the Youngs company.  Many individuals filed complaints ultimately resulting in the court case of 1983.  The United States Supreme Court ruled that Youngs Drug Products Corp. was in violation of an individual’s right to privacy as guaranteed by the US Government.[i]  This decision was only the beginning of a long line of disappointing battles contraceptives would have on their way to the prime time television spots they hold today.

Durex is the world leader for the sale of condoms.

Fast forward to the last 15 years, have things changed too much for the two major contraception companies like Trojan or Durex?  The Parents Television Council released starling data in 2007 that sexual references increased 22% during early prime time hours compared with programs that took the same time slot a mere six years prior (2001).  Since 1998, the amount of sexual scenes on television has nearly doubled, but despite the content on network and cable television during this time frame, condom marketers were still struggling to receive slots during prime time.[ii]  The arguments made in the late 1990s and early 2000s coming from condom executives, specifically Trojan’s parent company, Church & Dwight’s, Vice President of Marketing Jim Daniels, were all of the same nature.

“Sixty-five million Americans have an incurable STD.  Three million unwanted pregnancies a year-half of which end in abortion…  And yet you can advertise Viagra all you like and Valtrex for genital herpes, but not advertise the condoms that would go on the erection that prevents herpes.[iii]

Daniels wasn’t alone in his thinking on the matter.  Even major television networks were struggling to decide what was appropriate for viewers during prime time hours in the early 2000s.  Fox Broadcasting went on the record as saying that “contraceptive advertising must stress health-related uses rather than the prevention of pregnancy.”[iv]  During this time frame, the main issue facing both contraception companies as well as networks was one of appropriateness of the information being advertised.  Should there be a focus on pregnancy prevention, sexual transmitted diseases, or pleasure?  All parties involved were stumped for several years until Trojan decided to start marketing for all three, much to Fox’s dismay.

The Market “Evolves”

This is one of the images used in the 2007 "Evolve" campaign.

With its 2007 “Evolve” campaign, Trojan used a woman sitting at a bar who was being approached by pigs that were continuously trying to flirt with her.  One pig goes into the bathroom to purchase a Trojan condom, and upon exiting the bathroom he evolves into a man.  As he goes to flirt with the woman, he receives a much warmer response compared to his pig counterparts.[v]  Fox and other networks like CBS banned the commercial after only a few showings.  CBS had a policy during this time that didn’t accept advertising of the “Evolve” campaign’s nature.  According to CBS, “this is an issue involving personal behavior, the sort of subject matter that some portion of our audience would consider intrusive to their moral and religious beliefs.  It was not deemed suitable for mass audience advertising.”[vi]  Executives from all the television stations claimed to have dealt with the hot button issues plaguing advertising such as birth control, unwanted pregnancy and related subjects through new programs, forums, documentaries, made-for-television movies and series, as well as public service announcements.  Although is a considerable step forward for networks, former New York City Planned Parenthood executive director Afred Moran  stands by the point that nothing has the same impact on at risk individuals like paid advertisements.[vii]

Finding the Right Market-Women Inlcuded

By expanding their market, Trojan is able to appeal to a wider variety of individuals based on different advertisement techniques.

A survey of 759 women that were attending contraceptive care clinics revealed that most of the women endorsed condom usage as an important way to reduce the spread of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).  Of these 759 women, 88% were “not sure” that condoms should be advertised on television as a way to prevent the transmission of AIDS.[viii]  What did the statistics mean for contraceptive advertisements?  Brands like Trojan and Durex as well as female targeted contraceptives like the birth control pill had their work cut out for them when trying to market their product to women prior to the advertising break-through of the first decade of the 21st Century.  It took a new outlook to make these contraceptive products more marketable to women and conservatives alike.  Trojan released an advertisement of a young couple being affectionate with one another very conservatively with words “Other than abstinence there is only one way to protect yourself.  Use a condom every time.  Trojan.  Pleasure you want.  Protection you trust.”[ix]  With this advertisement, a new era began in contraceptive advertising.  By playing on health-related issues as well as pregnancy prevention and pleasure, the products were being introduced to a new crop of customers because the contraceptive devices really could appeal to a larger group of people that were each looking for something different.[x]  This type of mass advertising made contraceptive devices across the board gain popularity and success in the later 20th century.  This popularity expands even into today because of the money gained during this era.

This oral contraceptive went on to become the number one perscription birth control pill of the early 21st century.

It isn’t just condoms that individuals turn to when in the market for a contraceptive.  Birth control pills came ever-increasingly popular within the last 50 years because women were able to have another option to prevent pregnancy.  Of the same group of 759 women surveyed about conceptive advertisements, 22 percent said they would be too embarrassed to purchase condoms in a drugstore.[xi]  Where does this leave women in society that are in the market for a more discrete contraceptive?  Johnson & Johnson gave women another option in the late 1990s.  With their televised advertisement for Ortho Tri-Cyclen, an oral contraceptive, women began seeing themselves as independent consumers in the market for pregnancy prevention.  The commercial Johnson & Johnson aired showed a young newlywed weighing her different family planning options.  Her obvious choice is Ortho Tri-Cyclen, available by a discrete prescription.  The advertisement took it one step further to pull in the female market by mentioned that the drug also was proven to treat moderate acne.[xii]  The brand went on to become the number one prescription birth control pill after the company spent $18 million in print advertising alone.  With the success of Ortho Tri-Cyclen, oral contraceptives grew in popularity to the point that in early 2003 Wyeth Pharmaceuticals went into over-drive contacting sales support and marketing firms to help advertise their new women’s contraceptive product before it was even completely developed.[xiii]

A New Age for Women

It didn’t end with just the oral contraceptives women had become so accustomed to for over half a century.  As women and society changed, so did female contraceptives and their respected approaches to advertising their products to the consumers within the market.  Companies began developing patches, shots, implants, as well as other forms to prevent pregnancy.  Companies even began developing emergency post-intercourse contraception products.

Johnson & Johnson is the company in the world of advertising that appears to cut no corners when it comes to promoting birth control products.  Following a successful run with the oral contraceptive Ortho Tri-Cyclen, the company began producing a birth control patch in an attempt to simplify the lives of women.  In the four years of promotion, the company spent $254 million advertising the new brand of contraception.  The major problem that stood in Johnson & Johnson’s way of another successful product for women was the lack of side effects printed either clearly or at all.  Of the 34 print and television advertisements for this product, five ran with no warning about the possible side effects of the patch; the advertisements that did include some of the side effects were not accurate or too small for consumers to read.  Johnson & Johnson are a prime example of what can happen when competition gets heated in the conception market.  Important details get left out, and consumers could be the ones to suffer most from a faulty product that they count on for contraception.[xiv]

Emergency contraceptives are becoming popular in today's society because it is giving women one more option in regards to pregnancy prevention.

In cases of contraception failure, there has been a development in recent years that gives women a back-up alternative they can count on up to 72 hours after the incident.  These morning after oral contraceptives, or commonly known as Plan B, pills have become the newest innovation in pregnancy prevention.  Companies have so much confidence in the development of this product in the market that only a mere month after approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Gynetics Company spent around $10 million worth of advertisements.  With the tagline “The condom broke.  But my life stayed intact,” Plan B contraceptives are appealing to women who sometimes need another option.  It is stressed that these emergency contraceptives are indeed just that, emergency contraceptives.  They are not to be used as a regular form of birth control.  The advertisements for these emergency contraceptives target women as the primary consumers, but more importantly, they target all women.  The major focus of these emergency contraceptive pills is that all women might be in a situation where the pill could be needed.  Companies try to advertise to all women so that there is no stigma attached to needing this type of product.[xv]

A Modern Notion

Men and women have always been viewed differently by companies looking to sell their products to consumers.  Based on the development of contraceptive advertising throughout the last fifty years, things seem to be staying in the same direction.  There are several video advertisements listed under the additional tabs to this page.  They are separated based by what gender the advertisement targets more, male or female.  Please view the videos prior to moving onto the conclusion and final analysis of this project.

[i] “A Trojan Horse Goes to Court: Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corp.” American Journal Of Law & Medicine 10, no. 2 (Summer84 1984): 203.

[ii] Brodesser-Akner, Claude. “Sex on TV is ok as long as it’s not safe. (Cover story).” Advertising Age 78, no. 37 (September 17, 2007):1.

[iii] Ibid., 3

[iv] Ibid., 4

[v] Facenda, Vanessa. “Squeamish TV nets dislike condoms.” Brandweek 48, no. 26 (June 25, 2007): 30.

[vi] Brozan, Nadine. “Birth Control Ad: The Fight for TV Time.” New York Times, August 24, 1987., 12.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii] Frank A. Bonati, et al. “The Relationship between Women’s Attitudes about Condoms and Their Use: Implications for Condom Promotion Programs.” American Journal Of Public Health 79, no. 4 (April 1989): 499-501

[ix] Bob Garfield, “Trojan ads will offend only the thin-skinned,” Advertising Age 76, no. 23 (June 6, 2005): 52.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Frank A. Bonati, et al. “The Relationship between Women’s Attitudes about Condoms and Their Use: Implications for Condom Promotion Programs.” American Journal Of Public Health 79, no. 4 (April 1989): 499-501.

[xii] Krol, Carol, and Michael Wilke. “J&J weighs 1st national TV spots for female oral contraceptives.” Advertising Age 69, no. 47 (November 23, 1998): 26.

[xiii] “Late News. (Cover story).” Advertising Age 74, no. 49 (December 8, 2003): 1-2.

[xiv] “Wherefore the Warning Signs?.” Brandweek 48, no. 29 (August 6, 2007): 20.

[xv] “Morning after.” Advertising Age 69, no. 43 (October 26, 1998): 52.


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