The X-​Files” Parody, Pushing A Drug

The X-​Files” was a TV series that ran from 1995 to 2002. The recent broad­cast is showing now – and it reminds me of an assign­ment on January 7,1997, when I received a call from an art director at FCB /​Health­care, to work on a story­board for Biaxin, Abbott Labo­ra­to­ries. At the agency, the copy­writer was creating the script. The art director suggested that, before coming in to the agency, I should video­tape a showing of “The X-​Files” to study the char­ac­ters, Mulder and Scully and also study the mood of the mystery.
The lines from the first page of the script that was faxed to me, titled :
Treat­ment for Product Rep Video
“The BiaXin-​Files”: The Cure Is Out There
“Main Char­ac­ters” were described as Agent Mildew and Agent Scuzzy.

I had always thought that a peptic ulcer was caused by stress but the copy of this assign­ment taught me that it is often caused from H-​pylori bacteria (Helicobacter-​pylori). In 1985, Abbott Labs had part­nered with a Japanese drug company to fight bacte­rial infec­tions. Abbott Labs got the FDA approval for Biaxin in 1991.

By the time that I arrived at the agency, with these sketches, the art director had devel­oped this rough story­board for me to follow. My image of the H-​pylori bacteria is the sharp-​toothed eel-​like image that I found and clipped from my exten­sive scrap file. I colored this crea­ture in the brightest, glowing colors that would make the crea­ture stand out in the dark video.
Following the art director’s 24 frames, my inter­me­diate frames of the story­board got approval from the agency.

There was one more version drawn with more detail and presented on boards for approval of the client, Abbott Labs.
Since I was working at home and at the agency, my time-​sheet (I am surprised that I kept it) shows the hours and loca­tions as I was devel­oping the begin­ning, inter­me­diate and final draw­ings. First, the hours I worked were week­days and then there was also a lot of weekend, over­time hours, as it neared the dead­line. I don’t have the final perfected story­board, it was kept by the agency, but the timesheet for the last version – shows that I spent the average of 27 minutes on each frame.
As my part of this promo­tional campaign ended, I moved on to other jobs for other clients, so I never found out if the video was actu­ally produced. Could they find actor /​look-​alikes, find loca­tions and afford the special effects for such a spoof ? The video would have been very expen­sive and prob­ably was to be shown at confer­ences or parties, tied in with a trade show. I don’t know how this video could educate the reps with infor­ma­tion to use as they repre­sented Biaxin to doctors and medical centers.
(There was, at the end of the video, a “doctor” with a closing message. Copy for this was not included with the script. This might have contained impor­tant infor­ma­tion for the product repre­sen­ta­tives.)

As I was preparing this report, I was able to find a clue suggesting that the parody had been produced. I studied the collec­tion of “images” that came with the search of : Biaxin. Here were many “Tchotchkes – free promo­tional items dispensed at trade shows, conven­tions, and similar commer­cial events”. (This is a term that I learned when first working for phar­ma­ceu­tical agen­cies).

In this collec­tion, I spotted the same kind of “bacteria monster” (that I had intro­duced in my story­board) shown on a wall clock ! There is no date for the clock, but if it was made in 1997, it might have been handed out at the time of the showing of “The Biaxin-​Files”!

Then and now, the ques­tion : how could the Abbott sales force get any infor­ma­tion from the video to aid them as they repre­sented Biaxin to the medical world ? Medical journal ads, trade shows, patient aids, product infor­ma­tion, confer­ences, and direct reports to the reps are all of value– but giving reps : clothing, pens, plush toys, etc.? There must be a reason for rewarding product reps, with small gifts, beyond paying them. Some items could have been passed on during the rep’s appoint­ments. The enter­taining moti­va­tional video and give­aways were prob­ably paid for by patients, as “research and devel­op­ment”.

Ann Thompson