The Very First Drug Ad

The very first drug ad was aired in 1983 by Boots Pharmaceuticals, a company that originated in the United Kingdom. At the time, a television ad promoting pharmaceuticals was a radical idea and certainly something that no one had seen before. The target “customer” in this marketing strategy was seen as the doctors prescribing this medicine and not the patients who were consuming it. The focus of this 22 second commercial was their prescription pain reliever Rufen. The ad had a very simple message, they wished to convey to the audience that their drug Rufen was the same as Motrin (Motrin was the leading anti-inflammatory medication brand at the time) since they were both fundamentally ibuprofen. Essentially, they were positioning their product as a lower cost alternative. In response to this ad campaign, within 48 hours the federal government asked Boots to take the ad down, and the delicate business of promoting drugs directly to consumers began.