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NBC Rejects Impotence Ad for Super Bowl; Rivals Will Air It Later

January 21, 1998|From Bloomberg News

Vivus Inc. said it will run television ads for its impotence treatment Muse, although NBC rejected the company's plan to introduce the text-only commercial during the Super Bowl this weekend.

Mountain View-based Vivus wanted to air a 30-second ad, at a cost of $1.3 million, during the game because of the viewer makeup. About 75% of the people expected to watch the Super Bowl are men under the age of 50, and studies show impotence will affect one in 10 men by the time they hit 50.

"Impotence appears to be the last taboo subject in American society, and that's a real shame," said Thomas M. Bruckman, chief executive of the American Foundation for Urologic Disease. "It's discouraging that NBC is not helping to get the word out on an important medical condition."

NBC, the No. 1-ranked network and a unit of General Electric Co., reviewed the topic and the commercial before rejecting it, saying, "At this time, we are not comfortable airing the ad."

Commercial space during the Super Bowl has since sold out, an NBC spokeswoman said.

The spot, which begins, "Attention impotent men, all 20 million of you," will run later this month on ABC and CBS, including during CBS coverage of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament.

Fewer than 10% of men who suffer from impotence seek medical help, even though many can benefit from it.

Analysts estimate that the impotence market could eventually top $4 billion in annual sales. Currently, 50 million men in the U.S., Europe and Japan suffer from the condition, and many of the existing treatments--usually injected or inserted--can cause discomfort.

Vivus introduced Muse, a suppository that increases blood flow to the penis and is administered through an applicator in the urethra, in January 1997. So far, more than 650,000 men have used it.

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