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In the past, erectile dysfunction ads have kept their imagery firmly in the realm of inference or lifestyle choices; middle-aged men fishing, or perhaps a couple dancing at sunset or snuggling on a porch. In contrast, the newest campaign from Viagra gets straight to the point. So much so that it’s drawn ire for its bluntness.
“So guys,” a sexy blonde woman in her forties says directly into the camera with a British accent and a come-hither look. “It’s just you and your honey. The setting is perfect. But then erectile dysfunction happens again.”
The stateside debut of British actress Linette Beaumont signals a marketing shift for Viagra’s maker, Pfizer. It’s the first time the drug company has used a woman to sell the little blue pill, and the spot also goes where no ED commercial has gone before by actually letting her slip in the “e” word (previously ads only mentioned “erection” in the side-effects disclaimer).
But the spot, which has aired during primetime sports (including the World Series) has drawn protests — particularly from parents watching TV with their kids. Even Pfizer’s former president of global research and development, John LaMattina, objected in a Forbes column titled “New Viagra TV Ad Should Be Dropped.”
Outlets from the The New Yorker to Adweek have dissected the commercial, bringing Beaumont a surge of publicity; Ellen DeGeneres has spoofed the ad. So who is the actress Viagra is pinning its hopes upon? The Hollywood Reporter caught up with 44-year-old Beaumont over the phone.
1. She’s a classically trained ballet dancer.
She began studying dance at the age of three; an injury later thrust her into the world of acting.
2. She graduated from the prestigious Drama Centre London.
Dubbed the “Trauma Centre” for its intense method acting program, Beaumont bonded with classmates Russell Brand, Michael Fassbender and Tom Hardy. “Everyone gets close, and I don’t mean that in a sexual way,” she says.
3. Russell Brand is her personal “superhero.”
As a first-year student Beaumont appeared in a play alongside Brand. She got knocked off the stage — deliberately or by accident, she’s still not sure — and Brand “was the one who came to my rescue.”
4. In Britain, she’s been on several TV shows.
She’s appeared on the popular EastEnders, Holby City, Casualty, The Bill, Barbara and Doctors. She’s also played her dream role of Lady MacBeth onstage several times.
5. She comes from humble beginnings.
Beaumont’s father was a herdsman and farmer, and her mother was an opera singer in her youth. She worked in fast food restaurants and as a waitress to put herself through drama school.
AdAge says Pfizer spent $176 million last year on media for Viagra, according to Kantar Media, and with the new ad already appearing during NFL and MLB games the spending doesn’t appear to be slowing. That doesn’t mean the drug manufacturer is interested in giving away too many intimate details about the new ad, however. A company spokesperson told THR that it was against policy for Pfizer to allow interviews with actors in its ads.
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