This print ad for AIDS drug Sustiva, a once-daily non-nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitor, or NNRTI, that features a gay marriage has caused some trouble for DuPont Pharmaceuticals Co.
The campaign features persons with HIV reaching life milestones, including buying a new home, celebrating a 40th birthday, and getting married – but the union is two men. Despite the competitiveness of the category, AIDS drug ads have never before had such gay-specific creative, let alone taken on a contentious issue like gay marriage.
According to the company, the gay marriage ad garnered just a couple of negative letters—from a physician and a patient—after running in a medical journal for infectious diseases, yet this was enough for DuPont to rethink its media strategy.
"We got a few letters which thought we were advocating a ‘homosexual lifestyle,’ " says a DuPont spokesman. "We cannot advocate or denounce any lifestyle ‘choices’ as a company, and it was not our intention, so we pulled the ad from certain publications. We felt it would be best to place the ad only in specialized publications geared toward the market."
Other ads from the campaign featuring African-Americans and Hispanics will continue to run in mainstream media placements, only the gay union ad will run in specialized media.
While DuPont declined to let its ad agency comment on the unusual creative, Steve Mader, the former senior VP of marketing at DuPont who launched the campaign, notes "it’s more of a reality-based campaign." He too criticizes the rock-climbers cliche. "When I looked at current HIV advertising campaigns, I thought, ‘rock climbers?’ How many people really climb rocks? It’s not realistic."
Mader, who is now with another pharmaceutical group, says his colleagues at DuPont thought the ad might be controversial but he then argued that anyone in opposition doesn’t buy the product. "We’re in the 21st Century. In the past year, even though I’m heterosexual, I’ve had three sets of friends have commitment ceremonies."