It’s lobbying, Jim, but not as we know it

by Mark Sales | Nov 16, 2016

For some reason this week I have been spending far too much of my social media time on trips down memory lane, one of which was the original (and as much as Patrick Stewart is a personal hero of mine), best Star Trek, sat on the couch with my dad watching William Shatner boldly go where no man had gone before. This took me to another love of my life, Britpop and Shatner’s recital of Pulp’s Common People (http://bit.ly/1dHOQng, although I still think I prefer the original http://bit.ly/1Gua2zN), which was actually on the radio as the surgeons were bringing my first child into the world.

My next YouTube stop weirdly ended up being the slew of Christmas adverts being broadcast by the British department stores – for me 2016 is a true disappointment compared to some of the classics of the past, but I then landed on the #stopfundinghate campaign, which has taken umbrage to the alleged move further and further to the right wing of part of the British press – here is its brand-jamming video: http://bit.ly/2fu2LJt . Their aim is to cut media spend from some of the larger, ethical companies to these publications – they have claimed success in Lego’s discontinuing its relationship with the Daily Mail (it should be noted that the Daily Mail reported the relationship had ended anyway) , while the Co-Op, an ethical-focused group, reported that they are in review of their spend.


But, interestingly, a very middle-class British establishment (and normally the winner in the Christmas TV ad wars), John Lewis department stores, is under increasing pressure from customers, staff and the general public to withdraw its advertising. As I write they have issued only the following statement: “We fully appreciate the strength of feeling on this issue, but we never make an editorial judgement on a particular newspaper.” I will be very interested to see how this plays out

I wonder if the team at John Lewis have been fervently working through opportunity-cost scenarios of lost visibility to their target audience if they bowed to the pressure, versus the impact on reputation if the #stopfundinghate campaign gets that magical social media power of “stickiness” – a gamble either way just before the Christmas season.

Reputation is something that has always been close to our hearts in healthcare, an industry often derided by many (including my non-pharma friends) as “evil,” yet the numbers tell a different story.


Granted these numbers are not only general public, but healthcare enjoys a strong reputation within the people who matter to it as an industry. We know reputation can be correlated to all sorts of behaviors, for example top talent wanting to apply, share price, and organizations wanting to partner. But what I would argue is most important for our industry is a feeling that a positive reputation among the right stakeholders can act as an insulator against issues that may have been fatal otherwise.

I would ask one question though – should someone be responsible for the reputation of the industry as a whole, or should it be everyone for themselves?

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