Pfizer Inc.'s Lipitor: The Celebrity Endorsement Controversy

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Case Details:


Case Code : MKTG191 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 400;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 400 + Shipping & Handling Charges extra


Product Management/ Sales Promotion/ Celebrity Endorsements
Case Length : 23 pages
Period : 2006-2008
Pub Date : 2008
Teaching Note : Not Available
Organization : Pfizer, Inc.
Industry : Pharmaceutical
Countries : USA


In 2006, Pfizer, Inc., the world's largest pharmaceutical company, was facing a big challenge in sustaining the sales of its cash cow Lipitor. Though the marketing of Lipitor had attracted criticism and many lawsuits, Pfizer's marketing muscle had ensured that Lipitor was the highest selling drug in history with sales of US$12.19 in 2005. However, the problem for Lipitor in 2006 was sustaining the high sales of the brand and fuel further growth as it faced intensified generic competition as two of its main competitor drugs went off patent. Among other initiatives, Pfizer banked heavily on its strategic move of getting Robert Jarvik (a medical scientist who is better known as the inventor of the artificial heart) as its brand ambassador.

Marketing Management Case Studies | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Marketing Management, Case Studies


Understand the issues and challenges in sustaining the sales of a cash cow

Understand the pros and cons of using celebrities to endorse a brand in general, and specifically with regard to prescription drug

Understand the challenges in ethical marketing and promotional practices for pharmaceutical companies, and explore ways in which pharmaceutical companies could achieve a balance between commercial interests and ethical considerations

Understand the reasons behind the controversy over the Lipitor ad campaign involving Jarvik and the reasons that prompted Pfizer to pull back the campaign

This case is meant for MBA/MS students as a part of the Product Management/ Marketing Management curriculum.


  Page No.
End of a Controversial Campaign 1
Background Note 2
History of Lipitor 4
The Big Challenge 6
A Controversial Campaign 8
The Results of the Campaign 11
Pfizer Pulls the Campaign 13
Did Pfizer Jump the Gun? 14
Outlook 15
Exhibits 17


Marketing, Advertising, DTC advertising, Ethical selling, Ethical marketing, Celebrity endorsement, Off-label promotion, Generic competition, Cash cow, Pharmaceutical, Robert Jarvik, Pfizer, Lipitor

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