If you have found your way to this blog, you might consider yourself web savvy. Phrases like digital divide and things like tweeting may even be second nature to you. But if you have teenagers in your home, you are always playing catch up. Cyberspace is their playground. You and I know that. Your kids know that. And the people marketing prescription drugs know that. That’s why lawmakers spent so much time discussing a bill passed and signed in Maine this spring. Its called Chapter 1055 and it prohibits the marketing of prescription drugs to people under the age of 18.
For those of you less familiar with social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook. These online hubs are provided to users free of charge. The various services sell ads to maintain profitability. The ad copy is intended to be specific to the demographic needs of the individual user and others people in their social network.
For example, a soft drink company can target teenage boys between the ages of 12-16 with a specific message in the Boston media market, using an ad featuring Celtic star Kevin Garnett. That same ad would be less effective for girls the same age so the company creates an alternative message with Miley Cyrus aimed at girls. The soda company can tell the social network’s ad aggregator where, when and how often to place that ad.
The Maine legislation was driven by ads for birth control being placed on social networking tools, but obviously the impact of this measure goes well beyond a certain drug manufacturer, in one state. This is the next front in policing drug marketing.
It will undoubtedly impact the way consumers in our community interface with manufacturers and vendors. Will free Wii’s now go the way of the do-do bird. Its hard to say. But it is certainly worth watching. In politics, we often find ourselves discussing unintended consequences. The intent of this Maine bill is noble. Children should be children, they should be insulated as long as possible from market pressures that turn them into nothing more than a number to be branded, marketed and sold. Truth is though, they are bombarded by commercial messages all day everyday. We all are.
So, what will be the actual impacts here. Chapter 1055 is yet to be fully implemented, and so we don’t know yet. We do however know, alot of people will be watching.