Health Canada reviewing CTV Zyban spots

A series of anti-smoking TV interstitials sponsored by the smoking-cessation drug Zyban has raised a red flag with Canada's Health Protection Branch. The pharmaceutical watchdog is reviewing the series of short filler spots, which were produced and aired by the CTV...

A series of anti-smoking TV interstitials sponsored by the smoking-cessation drug Zyban has raised a red flag with Canada’s Health Protection Branch.

The pharmaceutical watchdog is reviewing the series of short filler spots, which were produced and aired by the CTV television network, to determine whether they contravene federal restrictions on direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising.

Health Canada opened the investigation after receiving complaints regarding the spots, which feature ordinary people talking about their personal struggles to quit smoking, according to Ann Sztuke-Fournier, head of the advertising and promotion unit of Health Canada.

The 30-second ‘health vignettes’ began airing nationally last month and while the actors never make any specific reference to a smoking-cessation aid, a super at the end of the spot tells viewers the message is ‘brought to you’ by Zyban.

Although she refuses to divulge the source of the complaints,

Sztuke-Fournier says the fact remains that ‘you cannot advertise prescription medication directly to consumers in Canada.’

Glaxo Wellcome, the maker of Zyban, is currently crafting a response to Health Canada and says it is standing by the spots.

‘We feel that the sponsorship of these CTV medical vignettes is well within the Canadian regulations as it pertains to direct-to-consumer communications,’ says Carlo Mastrangelo, a Glaxo spokesman.

Health Canada bans direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription drugs for the treatment, prevention or cure of a disease or condition that requires diagnosis and treatment by a physician.

Drug companies can market their products to doctors and other health professionals and can also advertise to consumers in order to encourage consumers to consult a physician about a particular ailment. The commercials, however, cannot urge people to ask their doctors about a specific drug.

According to Rita Fabian, CTV’s senior vice-president of sales and marketing, the Zyban spots constitute ‘editorial’ programming, and not advertising. She adds that they were reviewed very carefully to ensure they were in compliance with Health Canada regulations.

‘We were very careful to make sure we were not breaking any rules and regulations,’ she says. ‘As far as we know, we haven’t.’

Zyban is the leading smoking-cessation prescription drug on the market. The number of Zyban prescriptions filled almost quadrupled from 201,000 in 1998 to 747,000 last year, according to Pointe-Claire, Que.-based research firm IMS Health Canada. The drug was the 66th most-prescribed drug in 1999.

However, in the increasingly competitive stop-smoking category, Zyban has come under pressure from over-the-counter competitors that can more freely advertise their products. In April of last year, Ontario joined the rest of the country in switching nicotine replacement therapies, including patches and gum, from prescription to over-the-counter.

Since the change, competitors such as Nicorette gum and Nicoderm patches, produced by Montreal-based Hoechst Marion Roussel, as well as Nicotrol patches marketed by Johnson & Johnson Merck Consumer Pharmaceuticals, have all launched consumer-marketing campaigns.

While direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising is banned in Canada, it is big business in the U.S. and advertising is flowing freely across the border on U.S. airwaves, magazines and newspapers.

American drug companies spend between US$1.5 billion to US$1.8 billion annually on direct-to-consumer advertising, with 5-10% of that seeping north of the border, according to data from ACNielsen.

Corner Officer Shifts: Martin Fecko leaves Tangerine

Plus, PointsBet Canada and Thinkific name new marketing leaders as Lole gets a new ecommerce VP.
Corner Office

Martin Fecko departs Tangerine 

After roughly two years of serving as Tangerine’s chief marketing officer, Martin Fecko has a new gig. And this time, the financial services vet will apply his marketing leadership to a new sector, having been named CMO of Dentalcorp.

Fecko will lead the dental network’s end-to-end patient journey, support its overall growth, and work to maximize patient experiences across every touchpoint, the company said in a release.

“Martin’s in-depth expertise in engaging and retaining customers through a digitally enabled experience will be valuable in realizing our vision to be Canada’s most trusted healthcare network,” said Dentalcorp president Guy Amini.

Prior to joining Scotiabank’s digital-only banking brand in late-2019, Fecko was country manager for Intuit Canada and spent 10 years at American Express in consumer and digital marketing.

PointsBet Canada nabs former Bell marketer as it pursues expansion

Dave Rivers has joined PointsBet, an online gaming and sports betting operator, as Canadian VP of marketing.

Rivers joins from Bell, where he was most recently director of brand marketing and sponsorship, responsible for driving the company’s national sponsorship strategy and portfolio. He will report to PointsBet Canada chief commercial officer Nic Sulsky.

According to Sulsky, Rivers will “play a key role as we prepare to launch a business that is unique to our roots here in Canada.”

PointsBet has a significant presence in Australia, where it was founded, and in the U.S. In July, it named Scott Vanderwel, a former SVP at Rogers, as CEO of its Canadian subsidiary, one of several hires aimed at establishing the company’s presence locally.

Thinkific names first CMO among other executive appointments

Vancouver’s Thinkific, a platform for creating, marketing and selling online courses, has appointed Henk Campher as its first chief marketing officer as it invests in marketing to support its growth plans. It has also upped Chris McGuire to the role of chief technology officer and moved former CTO and co-founder Matt Payne into the new role of SVP of innovation.

Co-founder and CEO Greg Smith said Campher and McGuire “will play key roles building high-functioning teams around them and optimizing investment as we continue to carve out an increasingly prominent and differentiated position in the global market.”

Campher joins from Hootsuite, where he was VP of corporate marketing. Before that, he was VP of brand and communications at CRM giant Salesforce.

Lolë names new VP of digital omni-commerce as parent company exits bankruptcy protection

The Montreal-based athletic apparel and accessories retailer has appointed Rob French as VP of digital omni-commerce.

French will lead Lolë’s efforts in consumer insights, supply chain-to-consumer models and online customer journeys. In what is a new role for the company, he will also work to grow the company’s retail brand. He arrives with sixteen years experience in ecommerce, having spent the last few years as chief digital commerce officer at sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

In May 2020, Lolë parent Coalision Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection, citing several years of losses as a result of a downturn in the retail clothing market, increased competition and excess inventory – problems exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the filing, Coalision was seeking an investor or purchaser of its assets.

It successfully exited bankruptcy protection last year and is currently rebuilding its executive team, according to a spokesperson.