What’s more coveted than a Super Bowl ring, a Pulitzer prize and an Academy Award — rolled up into one?
A mention from Oprah, that’s what.
If you’re like me, and you have a Google Alert set for Eleme (I seriously doubt that, unless you’re Nancy Briefs), you might have noticed an uptick in activity.
That’s because the Merrimack, N.H.-based maker of SmoothShapes, a non-invasive laser treatment that blasts away cellulite, was featured in the May 2009 issue of O. That would, of course, be the official magazine of the Opraverse.
Under the perky title “The Cure for Cellulite? Seriously?” (that second question mark really sells it), Valerie Monroe braves the final frontier of reporting by having her own butt and thighs zapped in the name of journalism.
If you thought Katie Couric’s colonoscopy was groundbreaking, consider this: Katie never once uttered the phrase “Hoovering my ass”:
“Twice a week for four weeks I submitted to the labors of a slight young woman who rolled a handpiece connected by a hose to a machine that looks like R2-D2 over my bottom and upper legs, ten minutes on each side. The handpiece, which resembles a kind of iron with rollers on the bottom, emits the light and laser energy at the same time that a vacuum between the rollers grabs the skin and sucks it up; the skin, underlying fat, and collagen are heated and zapped and then released by the vacuum. The procedure can feel like a strong deep-tissue massage — or, when I was in a less imaginative or more sensitive mood, like someone Hoovering my ass, an experience I wasn’t especially eager to repeat. Nevertheless, with visions of a tighter, smoother bottom dancing in my head, I kept up my appointments, till the day the technician congratulated me on completing the treatment. (Cost: $2,100, though I didn’t pay.)”
So, how did it work out for you, Val?
“About a month and a half after my last treatment, I had a set of ‘after’ photos taken. Looking at my butt in the mirror, I could still see no difference in my cellulite. But when I saw the before-and-after photos side by side, I gasped: It was remarkable. The skin looked much smoother and tighter. (If you’re thinking that the photos were doctored, they were not.)
“‘You got a pretty dramatic improvement,’ said Sadick, after examining the pictures, ‘about 50 percent in the topography and texture of your skin.’ It was obvious in the photos, but why couldn’t I see it when I looked in the mirror? ‘Sometimes it’s hard to assess improvement, especially to self-assess,’ Sadick told me. ‘We’re developing other parameters like measuring body mass index and circumference of the areas treated to find more quantitative ways to determine results. You have to remember that technologies [like SmoothShapes] are evolving. The results are variable. But this is the best we have to offer.'”
What does an “endorsement” from Ms. Winfrey really mean? We know she can turn a book into a bestseller, or a first-term senator into the President of the United States, but can she help Eleme’s cellulite units sell like hotcakes?
Oprah has an estimated 8.6 million viewers nearly half of whom make less than $40,000 a year, according to the Christian Science Monitor. It’s a powerful demographic that tends to listen when the queen of talk, er, talks.
That kind of power can instantly translate into overnight success. Just look atEntrepreneur Magazine, which had a cautionary piece last month titled “How to Survive the Oprah Effect.”
But it remains to be seen if the same magic that worked for Spanx, Wally Lamb and Barack Obama will work for a medical device — especially one that provides a $2,100 voluntary cosmetic treatment during the worst economy in 70 years.
Direct-to-consumer advertising is still very much a reach for the medical device industry, unlike its pharma Big Brother, which despite a 9 percent decline still managed to pump out $4.4 billion in ads in 2008.
Meanwhile, medical device firms spend a paltry amount in comparison (believe me, we know) and when they do, alarm bells tend to go off all over the place — as evidenced by the foofaraw when Medtronic and Abbott put a few ads up on YouTube last December.
The truth is that DTC ads just haven’t worked for most medical device companies. If you’re headed into the emergency room with chest pains, will you think to ask for a TAXUS Express by name?
Then again, I’d really like to see those heart attack ads. I’m thinking Wilfred Brimley would be perfect, if it weren’t for all that heart-healthy oatmeal.