Category Archives: Celebrity Health

Amy’s Spotlight: From Hollywood to Healthcare – Celebrity Endorsements: Then and Now

Amy Doner

Welcome to Amy’s Spotlight: From Hollywood to Healthcare. The blog will periodically provide commentary from Amy Doner, President and Founder of The Amy Doner Group, an established celebrity and talent procurement agency specializing in the pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare industries. Amy will offer her perspective on the influence celebrity, pop culture and related trends can have on today’s health-minded world and your business.

Celebrity Endorsements: Then and Now

You have been pairing celebrities with the pharmaceutical and consumer healthcare industries for more than two decades. What was the industry like when you started?
My career started in the early 1990s in the healthcare division of a leading New York-based public relations agency. At that time, clients seemed skeptical, but intrigued, with how celebrities could be successfully integrated into a healthcare communications platform. While the concept often took a fair amount of selling in internally for consideration, in many cases budgets were robust enough in that decade to take such a risk. The natural place to start? Promoting disease education for conditions that affected the masses such as heart disease or diabetes to increase the likelihood messages would be heard by enough members of a targeted population.

What made this work so well?

Back then, recruiting a celebrity to lead a disease-awareness campaign often came right down to a successful formula. First the celebrity was media trained in preparation for a national media day often taking place in a major media market like Los Angeles or New York. The celebrity would conduct live interviews on morning shows, telephone interviews with national print outlets and typically participate in satellite television and/or radio media tours. Then, it was time to hit the road and visit multiple cities over an extended period to engage with and educate their fans through local media. Yes, this approach to disease education has certainly evolved over the years. However, The Amy Doner Group believes it has helped to lay the foundation for where this work stands today – only now with a multitude of traditional and social media channels to foster greater awareness. And in today’s virtual world, without the need for as many plane tickets!

In your opinion was there one particular turning point when the approach to celebrity health endorsements really changed?

There was not one particular turning point when the approach to celebrity health endorsements changed – there were actually multiple. From a planning standpoint, as the FDA lightened restrictions on direct-to-consumer advertising for prescription medications, we saw celebrity health endorsements not just about getting more coverage, but becoming more wholly integrated with these opportunities. From an execution standpoint, I believe the first major game changer to be when celebrities were not necessarily recruited as voices for disease-awareness messages, but became the news themselves. The first that comes to mind is when Katie Couric had a colonoscopy on live television in the year 2000. For Katie it was personal, as she lost her husband to the disease in his early 40s.Yet, that television “event” brought unprecedented star power to the importance of early detection of colon cancer. This public health appeal paved the way for us to look at different ways on how to get celebrities and the public on board in different ways to propel the call-to-action. While The Amy Doner Group was not directly involved in that campaign, we look to that example of the positive impact star power can have on the health and well-being of others.

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