A contraceptive device manufacturer might be expected to understand
the concept of prevetion - and good crisis management starts with
If you raise consumers’ expectations too high about a product you’re
asking for trouble. Over the last week criticism in the media of the
Persona contraceptive and unwanted pregnancies in women using it, has
Was the product overhyped at launch and, if so, has this contributed to
the current situation?
An editor of a trade magazine close to the issue thinks not. She feels
sorry for Unipath, the manufacturers and thinks that the company went to
great lengths to educate doctors and pharmacists about the product and
its level of effectiveness.
A lot has been made about whether the level of effectiveness the company
quotes - 94 per cent - can be substantiated. But the real questions for
me are: did the manufacturers make clear to users what 94 per cent means
in terms of risk - that is one in 17 users each year will become
The company’s position seems to be that all users should have understood
the implications of that percentage but I am not convinced that they
Secondly, did the style of promotion match the reality of the
At launch Persona was supposedly billed by the manufacturers in
advertising as ’the biggest thing to happen to contraception since the
sixties’ and described overall as ’as reliable as a condom’. If they did
promote it this way, doesn’t there seem to be a mismatch between the
reliability data and at least the tone of the promotion?
It is essential in situations such as this for companies to show
compassion and concern. Of course Unipath will want to avoid saying
anything which might be deemed to be admitting liability but it is
possible to empathise with these women without admitting liability. I
haven’t seen any expressions of concern from the company about unwanted
pregnancies and I’m afraid that the quotes I have read from the UK
general manager make it look uncaring.
Unipath is running an advertisement in the national press under the
headline ’Know the facts’, explaining their position. If it wants the
Persona to be used properly and to make it clear for which type of women
it is suitable, this is an opportunity to do that. In fairness, the ad
does, but only in the 15th of 19 paragraphs and not before it has
featured endorsements from three ’satisfied users’. We know there are
going to be satisfied users, it’s the dissatisfied ones that matter.