Oh The People You’ll Meet

I reached Toronto fully prepared for my 4 hour layover. I sat contently in a vast and empty gate area reading the opening chapters of Japanland. It’s an enjoyable travel novel written by Karin Muller that I would recommend to any Japan goer—or free-spirited woman with a bone for adventure, new people, cultural adversity, and kicking aa—I mean judo—Elwood (cough, cough).

It seemed as if the Toronto Airport was just starting to open when I arrived. The waiting area was empty except for a Japanese man and me, sitting at complete opposite ends of the gate with a slew of seats in between us. Then a short, bright-eyed Irish Woman waddled over toward where I was sitting with her seem-stretching-stuffed backpack on her shoulders. So as not to make it too obvious that she was looking to make early morning conversation, she sat a whole two chairs over from me in the sea of measly padded chairs.

Forces beyond my comprehension coerced me to make eye-contact with her.

“Hiiiiiiiiiii!” Her cheeks turned red with glee when she smiled. “Are you on this flight?”

I could have said no, but she seemed completely harmless.

“Yes.”

We exchanged introductions; her name was Kelly. Then I learned something quite advantageous. She handed me a golden ticket to really start messing with her. Not that I normally would care to mess with complete strangers, but I was bored and had a whole four hours of her to look forward to.  She was journeying to her boyfriend’s motherland to meet his parents for the first time.

“Woah,” I said, “You’re nervous about not being able to speak Japanese, when you’re about to meet his parents?”

“Why? Should I be nervous about meeting them?”

“Hell yeah.” I raised my half-closed book, “I’m only a few chapters in, but I already know how serious of an engagement this is.”

“What do you mean?”

“In Japan, everything about relationships is sort of reversed. When a girl is introduced to the parents, it’s as nerve wrecking as a boy meeting a Jersey girl’s father who happens to be like the Chief of Police. Women have very specific roles in Japanese family’s and households. His mother is probably going to be evaluating you, your whole visit, like to see if you’re good wife material or something.”

Her eyes widened with panic.

We found ourselves at the terminal’s Bacardi Bar, continuing our conversation. By the time she had her second drink, I had easily convinced her I was a wealth of Japanese knowledge. She asked simple questions like “How should I act?” and I answered with, “Well, Japanese mothers like women who can keep a house so don’t expect to be catered to. Help out in the kitchen, with dishes, make your bed, stuff like that.”

She eventually requested a seat change to be next to me, under the impression that she would need a 13 hour crash course in Japanese ethics during our flight over… Truthfully, I was just about tapping out of the random knowledge I had been picking up. But whenever I felt her insecurities waning I would rekindle them with scary revelations—my best being, “Holy shit, I bet he proposes.”

Four drinks deeper, my hypochondriac companion could barely get out a question before needing to whisk off to the lady’s room. When she returned, we were joined by a young man who was wearing yellow reflective shades. He sat right next to Kelly and began drumming on the counter top of the bar with both index fingers. As soon as he got our attention and we looked over, he turned his head to us, smiled a bright white smile, raised his sunglasses on top his buzzed head, and greeted us with a vigorous “HEY!”

Oh Joy a crack addict to add to the mix. Little did I know that I would be spending the next two nights with him in Tokyo. The three of us got talking at the bar. What I had originally mistaken as a drug addiction turned out to be a genuine excitement for life—and he had every right to be excited. He is an aspiring dentist who was recently accepted into his medical program, he looked shockingly like the belated Heath Ledger (Joker RIP) when his glasses were on and his mouth was shut, had a bad case of yellow-fever, and was fortunately heading to Japan, where yellow, as you all may know, is the predominant color.

After Kelly’s, 5th—um 6th—eh 7 ½ish–some high number of drink we were called to board our flight. I told Eric I’d stop by on the plane, and Kelly and I got in line with the rest of our section. Behind us stood a pretty girl with a backpack like mine. Kelly, overly toasty and friendly, asked if she was excited for Japan and high fived the complete stranger. I laughed. The line was in a standstill, so we got to talking. Jackie was from Boston visiting her boyfriend who had been working in Tokyo for 8 months. In that time, she had managed to visit him 5 times on his dollar. This visit was special one however, because this trip encompassed the day that marked their third anniversary which they would spend in China together. Lucky Girl. Oh, and when she wasn’t traveling to exotic lands with Mr. Perfect, she was relaxing in his high-rise apartment in Tokyo that could see Mt. Fuji on a clear day. But truthfully, Jackie, was a nice girl. This Harvard graduate just finished her first year of medical school and didn’t give off the slightest sense of snobbishness.

Then we boarded.

The plane ride was pretty uneventful, spending most of my time watching free movies or sneaking back a section to sit next to Eric while we loaded ourselves on free Johnny Walkers.

Kelly slept a good portion of the flight, having no hesitation to use my shoulder as a pillow and drool towel—which was part of the reason I decided to visit Eric as often as I did. I didn’t mind him too much at all. It’s just he was as excitable as a puppy. In fact the first time a walked back to see him he smiled and sprung up so fast that he cracked his head on the seat in front him—hard enough to wake the man sleeping in it.

“Owe, ah, that sucked.” He rubbed his head and offered me a seat. Eric and I had a lot in common: crazy x-girlfriends, open mindedness when it came to politics, a sport we held dear, we owned our own dogs, possessed the inability to sleep on planes, and were born with a stomach for whiskey.

After the flight attendants cut us off at about our 6th mini-bottle, I must of made some sort of a good impression with Eric, because before we were even halfway to Japan, he had promised me that if I was up for it, I could chill with him and his friend Ryan in Tokyo for the first evening and crash in their hotel room.

When we landed at Narrita, Kelly was quick to get to her luggage. I waited for Eric and followed him off the plane. He was walking right in front of Jackie, leaning back, and talking with her. Though, it was obvious they hadn’t met on the plane. Jackie smiled when she saw me.

“How was your flight?” she asked.

“See you met Eric,” I said.

The three of us chatted away for a bit, waiting patiently for our luggage. We followed each other through customs and navigated to the waiting area. Jackie said good-bye and surprisingly wrote down her email for me. “Send me a message if you get bored in Tokyo.” I took it.

Eric nudged me in the ribs with his elbow when she was out of sight. He raised his eye-brows and smiled, clearly missing the fact that she had a boy friend, or that he was too hyper to get her email himself.

Right to Left: Asahi Kirin, Eric, Asahi Kirin, Ryan, Me

Finding Ryan wasn’t hard. He was average height for a white male, naturally standing about four to six inches taller than anyone else in Japan. He swam through the mob of Japanese toward Eric, who introduced us. His greeting was polite but had an aftertaste of indifference. I was an addition he could have obviously done without, but it still meant I had a bed to stay in tonight. I’d have to just give him time to warm up to me.

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They Called Me Gaijin: Preface

Resting in Kyu-Shibarikyu Onshi-teien

I had read the historical and cultural sections that prefaced the thick traveler’s guide I had purchased for my trip. I had packed a 40lb Osprey back pack with enough clothes and clean pairs of underwear to last me six days in dry and favorable weather conditions. I had a picture of my dog Gulliver on my best friend’s digital camera that he was letting me borrow, a stash of NYC postcards, novelty mugs and shot glasses adorned with “I heart NY’s”, a journal bound by a leather slip cover that my friend Arielle picked up for me during her studies in Spain, and a simple bronze hair clip clasped to one of the many nylon straps on the front of my pack which belonged to Lindsay (my friend/girlfriend sorta/ thing from college) who was two days and a night into her own adventure in Ireland and the UK.

I had taken care of my domestic affairs such as purchasing traveler’s med/evac insurance, notifying my credit card companies, mailing out thank you cards to all of my relatives for their generous graduation gifts that were about to be exhausted, and having a marrow bone surgically removed from my dog’s lower jaw that he had squeezed his bottom canines through the day before—making it the most expensive dog treat I have ever purchased, costing me approx. $350. Most importantly, I had my passport, boarding pass, and a general idea of where my gate was, where I would be catching my first of two planes toward my final destination of Japan—the land of the rising sun.

“Why Japan?”

Many of my family and friends had asked me that months, weeks, and days prior to my departure. There were numerous reasons for my decision: my best friend Allan is serving in the US Air Force at the Misawa US Military Base in Amonei Prefecture (one of the most northern regions of the main island of Honshu), it is a personal life goal of mine to have travelled to every continent in the world by the age of 30, Japan is one of the safest, most dynamic, and culturally rich countries in the world, but most of all, I love Sushi and I love eating.

That’s what put me on my first flight from JFK to Toronto Canada, where I would meet my first couple of spirited Co-travelers awaiting their connecting flight. See my next post to meet the strangers and to follow my two week journey.

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Yah’ ah’ tee

Two white rental vans drove through the blackened night and paint chipping sandstorms of Arizona in search of Tuba City – one of the destinations selected for the alternate spring break volunteers from Fairleigh Dickinson University.

I was riding shot gun watching road signs rattle against the sweeping winds that rocked our van side to side between lane lines- no other drivers were dumb enough to be on the road. My knuckles were turning white as I gripped the inside door handle-my eyes trying to perceive through the darkness of the storm.

Even under these conditions, the city would be hard to miss. It was the only city with traffic lights for miles and we had been told that we would be getting close if we saw a sign that read, “Dinosaur Tracks, this way.”

mmmmm... Burgers. (left to right) Angel, Jordan, me, and Ryan.

All 22 volunteers’ expectations of a hot and dry desert, a blazing sun,  and shorts and tee shirt weather had already been proven wrong. Arizona was a shmorgishborg of extreme climates. In a five-hour drive from the airport we had passed through the warm cactus painted landscapes of Phoenix, the cold snowcapped mountains of Flagstaff and the windy arid plains of the Navajo Reservation. Outside the van, I could clearly see snow flakes whipping around amidst the sandstorm when we stopped to pick up a late night dinner at the local Sonic.

Why had we come to such a place for our Spring Break?

To make a difference. But like our expectations of Tuba City, our actual experience would be completely different from anything we had anticipated.

We worked our way through the dark and freezing night, eventually finding our lodging accommodations. We would be staying in octagonal huts called Hogans, which were traditional Navajo dwellings used as living spaces, ceremonial chambers, and men’s club houses (of sorts).

There are two styles of Hogans, designated as being male or female. We only had female styled ones, but to keep with tradition our grounds coordinator divided us into assigned male and female Hogans. The Navajo believed the male Hogans were a place of bad energy: hunting, warring, killing, and debate. Unlike the Navajo, our men’s Hogan would be a place of jest and farting, or for wholesome discussions of who we thought was hot on the trip.

Our Hogan was spacious, though half of it was used for storing lumber that the grounds kept for renovation. Our cots were mounted to the walls as bunks and there was a single tiny space heater in the center of the room that was on its last leg. We relied mostly on a box full of mothball and sawdust covered blankets that we found in one of the corners. That night we almost froze.

The first morning the guys volunteered to prepare a pancake breakfast large enough to feed the team and a handful of Navajo church goers. Tony and I were quickly labeled the head chefs being that half of the men’s Hogan never woke up early enough to start preparing meals when we had to.

Tony and I didn’t mind. If we cooked all of the meals we would eat at base, we negotiated, then we wouldn’t have to do any other chores around the Hogan grounds, including cleaning the pile of dishes we used in meal prep.

The plan for the first day was to visit the Grand Canyon. The afternoon sun had melted the patches of snow and the roads were clear. Tuba City’s locals took to the streets in rustic cars and patch-paneled pickups. They were dressed as if it were still the dead of winter even though temperatures had risen to the mid 60’s. Considering it was snowing the night before, I think this was a huge improvement.

Shortly beyond the city limits the scenery took shape around us. The red sands and bold, colorful rock formations stood as testament to the endurance of America’s native people.

Rustling cattle! Actually, I was herding baby goats for their daily feeding.

Despite the beauty and majesty of the land, it is a feat of pure perseverance that the Navajo have survived in an area as arid and destitute as this. There was literally nothing to be done with their land. They couldn’t grow crops if they wanted to. To raise livestock they had to purchase feed, because there was no where for their animals to graze. Their traditional way of life was impossible to live, and prospects for any form of productivity were pretty grim.

We experienced this first hand one day when we helped and learned how to run a ranch in this dry land. We had to handle baby sheep and goats while hand-feeding them with bottled milk; we had to move the adult herd out to giant half-tires filled with feed; and had to separate a wild mother sheep from her day old lambs. It was an enlightening experience, but just driving through Navajo land gave us a strong sense of their struggle.

Walking around the top of the Canyon

The Canyon itself was a site to behold. I looked down the layers of painted stone, and all I could think about was how to climb to the next highest shelf of Paleozoic rock. My daring bouldering efforts earned its fair share of oohs, ahs and heart palpitations, but most importantly it provided me with an unmatched view of the four-mile wide trench in front of me. The Canyon paralleled the momentous week ahead and the work we would start the following day.

We were participating in a program under the Amizade organization. Usually its volunteers worked within the Navajo boarding schools, tutoring students. Luckily, the Navajo school system was also on spring break, so we had the rare opportunity of working with the local Boys and Girls Club to assist in its program and activities. Through this, we got to play the role of a “Big Brother/Sister” for the Navajo children.

Their clubhouse actual suffered a bad fire that decimated a whole wing of the building. The club had to move its services out on the streets, meeting in community parks or in rented trailer offices.

The first day we met our kids, we experienced the nicest weather of the trip thus far. Many of us underestimated the intensity of the sun while running around in the park and suffered sunburns that would accompany us the rest of the week.

Playing a hand slapping game called Ninja (very fun)

What surprised me most, being a past B+G Club member myself, was that they were minimalistic and not only made do with what little they had, but reached out to the community through exposure.

They pulled kids off the street and out of the skate parks to play games with us. We ran relay races, played soccer, and learned a Navajo game that was like a combination of Simon Says and Musical Chairs. I think it was called “Sweep the Hogan.”

This game was a lot of fun. One of the counselors would yell out a command and we would have to perform mini scenes with a set number of people. If players were too slow to find a group and fill the scene with an appropriate number, you would be eliminated. We performed scenes of baking flat bread, looking for sheep, driving the firetruck, and of course, sweeping the hogan.

Gil and I donning face masks for a dirty job.

The week as a whole was non-stop. We talked to the children about the foreign idea of attending college and played a giant softball game in an abandoned lot that lasted a whole day and intensified our sunburns. We also helped organize the B+G Club’s storage units so that they could begin repairing their buildings. This was the most grueling day of all. We were tasked with moving much of the furniture and equipment inside the ashen building into these already jam packed tin sheds.

After hours of moving dusty furniture and torn bags of dry concrete, we kicked up so much soot and crap, that we had to don face masks in order to breathe. They must not have opened these units in years with all that dust. That evening, I was blowing black soot from my nose and scrapping the dust out of my ears.

After a day like this, most of the team was happy just to return to our Hogan grounds. There was never a dull moment though. Most nights we gathered around our camp fire and told ghost stories while looking up at the stars. We pulled our fair share of pranks on each other as well, usually just trying to scare the living hell out of one another.

Building Ninja's house. (left to right) Ninja, Tony, Gil, Me, Ryan, and Ludger

We even befriended a pregnant stray dog that lived in our compound. We dubbed her Ninja because she was always appearing out of nowhere. We also built her a dog house to raise her on-the-way puppies in, against the wishes of our grounds keeper, “Preaching Pistol” Pete. He was one of the most eccentric old men I have ever met. When high on his own brand of mountain smoke, he often told us crazy tales of being a white man living on the Navajo Reservation. He also was the man who led church every Sunday for the converted Native Americans (the ones we made breakfast for).

Our service was supplemented with evening cultural experiences. One of the most memorable for me was participating in a Sweat Lodge. The traditional Navajo have many ceremonies and rituals; one of the most commonly practiced is a Sweat, where people can expel their misdeeds and bad energy by praying and communicating with the “Grandfathers.”

Our ceremony instructor, David, explained that the ritual is physically arranged to represent the body of a woman. Outside, there was a pile of wood representing the mind or hair, the fire pit that cooked the rocks was the heart, and the altar that held the ceremonial instruments represented the naval, making the burrow where we would sit, the womb of Mother Earth.

David filed all 22 of us into an earthly hallow, no bigger than an office cubicle, around a pit of heated volcanic rocks which he threw water on top of to create an intense sauna-like setting. After passing along a ceremonial pipe of mountain smoke, he pulled down the curtain to block out all light and began singing and banging on a drum.

I found myself disoriented, lacking any of the senses I had brought in with me. Only the hypnotic orchestra of prayers and chanting flooded my mind.

We asked the “Grandfathers” for selfless things, we prayed for the world, and sang. I sweat buckets on the two girls lucky enough to be sitting next to me. I was far from comfortable, but as soon as the four rounds of the ritual were over, I emerged from the earth’s womb into the cool purple sky of the desert and admired the bleeding sunset, feeling reborn.

That night I forgot about my problems back home, I forgot about the stress of my senior year, I even forgot about my peeling sunburn on the tightened skin of my arms, neck and forehead. David, like our B+G Club “littles”, held open a door of discovery.

That week we also visited Monument Valley, Coal Mine Canyon, and cultural museums. We shared stories of skinwalkers, danced to Navajo songs, and were taught the native language.

The team and our kids.

Every morning I woke up with energy and excitement no matter how late I stayed up the night before. I was renewed with endurance that I have only ever experienced in this place and within the people I met and worked with on this trip. It was impossible to give more to the Navajo people than I had received, from a people that expected the best of your humility and soul. And, you could never lose sight of this expectation in a place that greets you with the words Yah’ ah’ tee – walk in beauty. Walk in beauty.

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A College Kid On Drugs: Development Platforms Will Unlock Your E-Marketing Potential

People are social creatures. Young web entrepreneurs, such as Mark Zuckerberg (the creator of Facebook), struck gold when they discovered the means to accommodate the average social bug on the web through online social networks while providing a development platform for diverse social applications and function. What did that equate to? Third-party programmers with advertising agendas and dollars in mind, created interactive applications that heightened the experience users had while using their favorite networking sites. And now-and-again, these sites or applications work. People keep using them while the page’s population keeps growing and growing. While Facebook remains the king of all networking tools, I feel pharmaceutical companies in particular will find using other social platforms beneficial and successful.

So, heard of Ning? Ning is an online platform that allows the average Joe to create his or her own social networks. I have made quite a few networks utilizing Ning myself. One of the key advantages of this tool is that you accept members who are registered with Ning, giving you access to their profiles and email addresses. This means quick newsletters and product information releases through the news feed, sidebars, or through event email invitations after hitting the awesome “send to all” button at the bottom of the page. Meanwhile, members can support each other by posting on the main wall, starting forums, and asking questions. At the same time, all content and the layout of the page is managed by you and anyone else you dub administrator of the site.

Look at joyofdiabetes.ning.com for some inspiration. Bob Hawkinson created this network to promote his book, The Joy of Diabetes, while establishing a network for people suffering from Type 2 diabetes. Now take a look at the right side of the page at the “Ads by Google” box. See how all the ads are relevant to anyone who may be a member of this network. Coincidence? I think not. Ning, like Facebook, uses metatags to link ads with keywords. Not to mention, Ning makes it really easy to utilize Google ads. Sign up with Google Ads and Ning and watch your ads popup on other networks related to your own. Also, as you can tell by looking at the site, it doesn’t take much to manage. Members will start to run the site for you. Everyone has stories and opinions that they want heard; and while Bob Hawkinson remains pretty active, forums and discussions are being created by all members. Online platforms give users the opportunity to create highly active networks and a large audience for advertising.

Another interesting technique being used by some companies is the use of a support page or support site to complement their preexisting websites. Sometimes these sites have little to do with their main website or resemble little of their main page’s interface and design. Yet, these pages generate a lot of activity and create the foundations not only for support and networking, but advertising. Take a look at www.arimidex.com.This is a webpage that advertises a drug called Arimidex, a therapy for postmenopausal women in the early stages of breast cancer developed by AstraZeneca. The site features a “celebration chain” application that allows users to create Window’s Paint quality dolls of themselves or a loved one who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Then they share their dolls story by selecting words that describe whomever the doll is representing. These profiles are then not simply read but demonstrated in quick 2-dimensional animations. And as much as I enjoyed watching Mickey J., whose creator forgot to put pants on her, go through animations like lifting a car (for strength) or playing fetch with a dog (for dog lover), there was something very sentimental about skimming across the chain and visually experience these people’s stories and see all of the communal support. The website has at least 18,000 users “hugging” and supporting each other just a few scrolls away from a lower section containing 348 words providing information about Arimidex. Not only are they using the page to advertise, they are gaining publicity and promoting activity by stating that every doll made will raise one dollar to be donated toward breast cancer research.

Although I would like to say that I can write about social networking without mentioning Facebook, I’m afraid there is simply no avoiding it-and for good reason. Facebook functions as one of the most accessible development platforms for any programmer. Some pharmaceutical companies have already taking advantage of the world’s largest social network for their e-marketing efforts. Nasonex developed a Facebook application called Don’t Blow It that features a comical nose character by the name of Ronnie Nose-hut hut. It’s a simple flash game that educates the players about allergens as they navigate each level collecting objects while dodging abnormally aggressive pollen and dust mite obstacles. But hey, if you happen to bump into a walking bottle of nasal spray or a friendly ENT doctor, you are granted immunity from the allergenic assailants for about five seconds. The game really utilizes the gimmick of Ronnie, especially in between levels when he tells jokes about having a date with an ear, speaking through his nostril mouth. Ronnie definitely draws an audience, and like the Arimidex celebration chain, Nasonex encourages activity by promising to plant a low-allergenic tree in America for every new player to register. At the end of the game they even have an offer for a $15 coupon for Nasonex products. The rest of the application page is filled with information about Nasonex and allergies. If you can’t wait to poke your nose around the game, go straight to www.dontblowit.com.

Although quirky and sometimes even campy, using applications in conjunction with a social network effectively raises site activity, generates an audience, and gets the point across. Creating a high-traffic social network can be as easy as 1-2-3 by implementing one of the many development platforms readily available on the web. Some other development platforms not previously mentioned include the Google Apps Engine and Amazon Web Services. By adding more to your e-marketing campaign, users will forget that you are trying to sell them behind your efforts of establishing community. Applications that are engaging and interactive will bring you a whole new perspective on successful online advertising.

Originally a web article on PharmPro.

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A College Kid On Drugs: How The Pharma Industry Is Missing Its Biggest Potential On-Line Audience

As the general public becomes better educated about healthcare and pharmaceuticals and more aware of their options, there is an increasing demand for pharmaceutical companies to explore new ways of reaching their audiences by advertising through various forms of media. Television still remains the dominant outlet for drug advertisements-filled with gimmicky cartoon characters like the raspy spoken Mucinex loogie (or whatever he is) and his mucus family-however, the internet is quickly becoming the most popular frontier for target advertising, and social utilities and networking sites such as Facebook are becoming popular playing fields for pharmaceutical advertisers. Being a Facebook aficionado and habitual web surfer myself, I can say that my experiences with online advertising can provide useful insight to any company interested in marketing on the web.

The internet has certainly initiated a shift in health care formalities. Prior to the internet, patients relied on the professional diagnosis and recommendations of their physicians who would prescribe them a medication that the patient most likely knew nothing about. Now, due to the abundance of information online (whether it be through a credible health blog, Wikipedia, or even Yahoo Answers), people are acquiring the information they need to self-diagnose themselves before they even step into the doctor’s office. Then they request a prescription for specific drugs that had been previously recommended to them or that appealed to them in an advertisement. Therefore, there has been an apparent impact on the industry as a result of advertising, but what are some ways of successfully promoting drug products online?

The internet poses a few key advantages over advertising through television or print. Firstly, there is a world of opportunities to making advertisements engaging and creative by using interactive websites or flash ads. You would be surprised at the variety of products I have seen advertised in mini flash games. Just a few weeks ago I spent the better part of an hour boxing overpriced gas pumps in the ring as a fuel efficient Nissan Versa. I didn’t take away much except that I should always avoid gas pumps with four arms because they have a vicious right hook. Still the advertisement held my attention for a duration that well exceeded 30 seconds; the sound effects attracted my curious father into the room who now knows the Versa is pretty fuel efficient; and most importantly it stuck in the head of a college kid to whom videogames are the culmination of human development. Find a medium that the target audience will want to engage with; flash video games generally get a response out of young adults.

Secondly, the FDA still hasn’t worked up a sufficient framework for regulating online advertising. Although most companies still maintain their integrity-listing side- effects and drug warnings related to their product-they still have ridiculous campaign methods. The Mucinex website, to note, actually allows users to meet an animated representation of Mr. Mucus (the loogie dude previously mentioned) who plays off the gimmick of being tossed out of every new home he and his family move into. But there is another side to this unregulated coin. While FDA approved products are enjoying the liberties of online advertising, so are their “unofficial” competitors who are not accredited by any significant regulatory body. Less reliable products such as herbal remedies that rarely work, “natural” supplements like fish oils that aren’t coated properly and dissipate in the stomach with no health benefits and even teas with hallucinogenic properties equivalent to the drug Tetrahydrocannabinol found in cannabis are not only advertised on the web, but easily accessible. Not only do companies need to jockey for space on line, they need to outshine the appeal of accessibility (if they are selling prescription products) and somehow stand out as being more effective and reliable than the “miracle” drugs being pushed by false advertisement.

Thirdly, the target audience is identifiable. The promotion can and should target those who would be interested in reading it. Advertising on web pages or blogs that discuss and educate about a disease or illness that the drug addresses is an obvious way to reach target audiences. Unfortunately, in this regard, search engine optimization (SEO) is going to be a great hurdle considering firms designate full departments to this endeavor. Their goal of course is to get a blog or ad to show up after person so-and-so discovers that he or she has illness x, when he or she is looking for remedies y. Your product ad is y and the easiest way to make sure that all roads lead to y is to control x. Creating a resource page for people with diabetes makes a great platform for advertising an insulin product. Facebook, for example, takes keywords out of a user interests page to determine what ads to display on the margins of the screen. Keywords that I used such as band names, fitness, and health resulted in my page being flooded with ads for Incubus tickets, protein supplements, dieting, exercise routines, male performance enhancers, protein supplements, and did I mention protein supplements. The problem for pharmaceutical companies with social networking sites like Facebook is that no one lists arthritis, erectile dysfunction, or hemorrhoids under their interests page even if they have it. So ads for appropriate treatment and therapies aren’t going to pop up people’s profile page; any drugs advertised are usually for aesthetic purposes, sometimes making my Facebook page feel like opening up a copy of Men’s Health. Still, there are plenty of approaches to take, such as developing an application for Facebook users or a group page for people with the same condition.

With millions of eyes scanning the web every second, the audience for online advertising seems limitless. Many methods are hit and miss; website banners and margin ads rarely attract the eye. There are many tools such as WordPress and social utilities that will enable companies to design online communities or hubs to draw people looking for information and suggestions. By providing these resources, not only do you create a net to ensnare your audience, you create a platform for advertising. With a little creativity your ad will stick; and with some success in SEO, your ads can be virtually unavoidable and as unforgettable as the raspy charm of the Mucinex loogie.

Originally a web article for PharmPro.

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