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No Viagra Ads Before 10 p.m.?

Congressman Introduces Bill That Would Ban ED-Drug Advertising During Certain Hours

Rich Thomaselli
Advertising Age
May 6, 2009

NEW YORK ( -- For the second time in four years, U.S. Rep. Jim Moran has introduced legislation that would ban erectile-dysfunction and male-performance-enhancement ads from commercial TV broadcasts between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. The ads would be considered "indecent," meaning under Federal Communications Commission rules they could not be aired during hours when children are likely to be watching.

Mr. Moran, D-Va., and fellow Rep. Robert Brady, R-Pa., introduced House Resolution 2175 in the House of Representatives on April 29, according to the Library of Congress. Called the "Families for ED Advertising Decency Act," the proposed bill would "prohibit as indecent the broadcasting of any advertisement for a medication for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, and for other purposes." It was sent to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

It's not the drugs; it's the ads

Austin Durrer, an aide to Mr. Moran in his Washington office, told Ad Age, "The congressman does not have a problem with the drugs -- only the advertising. His feeling is that they're not appropriate for family viewing hours and some of the advertising makes for uncomfortable situations." Mr. Durrer made it clear that Mr. Moran is "not into censorship."

In their commercials, ED-drug makers have long used sexual innuendo, as well as the now-famous disclaimer to see your doctor if an erection lasts longer than four hours. The National Football League ended an $18 million sponsorship deal with Levitra in 2006 because the league deemed some of the ads too risque. A year later, Major League Baseball did not renew a five-year sponsorship agreement with Viagra.

Mr. Moran introduced similar legislation in 2005 and met with representatives from big pharma's lobby group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America. "They came to our office and told us they would rein this thing in, cut back on the hours, and if they did that asked if we would we ease up on the bill," Mr. Durrer said. "We said, 'Sure.' But the ads have been increasing, and we've been getting feedback from a lot of people."

ED-drug marketers spent $313.4 million on measured media last year, up from $237.2 million in 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

Voluntary guidelines

PhRMA, which did not respond to an interview request by press time, did introduce a set of direct-to-consumer advertising guidelines for the industry in August 2005. But the guidelines were voluntary, and while drugmakers initially adhered to specific language in the guidelines asking that ED-drug ads be shown after 9 p.m., the last year or so has seen numerous ED-drug ads during the day.

"Here they are, back again," Mr. Moran said in an interview on WTOP radio in Washington. "Most sporting events during the daytime on the weekends are saturated with these ads. ... I don't think it's very subtle to suggest that you call your doctor if you experience an erection lasting longer than four hours, or ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sex. I don't think it's appropriate for children to listen to that kind of stuff."

Mr. Moran's new bill does make an exception for product placement, meaning the brand name of any of the drugs could be used within the dialogue or plot of a TV show. But a commercial for the same product would not be allowed during the show if it aired within the 6 a.m.-to-10 p.m. window.

The FCC can fine a station up to $325,000 for every violation of its indecency rules.





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