Broadpoint's misleading advertisement program

Broadpoint's misleading advertisement program

We want to believe that we can trust the community around us to be honest with us, especially as it pertains to issues regarding our health and the health of our children. Sadly, that honesty is not often forthcoming, or even worse, is deliberately circumvented, so as to obfuscate the truth. Indeed there are companies devoted to doing just that. Recently we saw an example of this in the Portsmouth Herald’s Sunday (9-18) medical section; Tip of the Day. The tip, as it were, touted the safety of BPA, an element found in many plastic household products. The takeaway was that BPA is perfectly safe. The text and its presentation were designed to give the impression that this was an actual news item. But this was not the case and in fact, the information presented was, to put it kindly, of questionable nature. This article was submitted to the paper by a marketing company called Brandpoint.

I did a little checking into Brandpoint; who they are and what they do. I found, on their website, a special section dedicated to the pharma industry, called An Advertising Solution for Pharma Companies (

On this page, Brandpoint says that their “native advertising initiative” is of great benefit, specifically, to pharmaceutical and chemical companies because Brandpoint can create “a piece of branded content that mimics a news article.” That is to say, they will write and submit articles promoting products of pharma companies that sound like legitimate news stories as opposed to advertisements.

They go on to say that this “mighty” tool helps companies that are “usually bogged down with legal red tape” to tell anecdotal stories that are presented as proof of a chemical’s efficacy and safety. Brandpoint goes on to remind its clients that  “FDA regulations aren’t going away any time soon. Pharma companies will still have to include their hefty disclaimers, their less-than-enticing side effects and whatever else the FDA requires of them.” Heaven forbid that potential consumers should have to know about those pesky side effects.

In the “article,” Brandpoint does not mention that it is because of BPA’s that they tell you not to microwave food in a plastic container. In 2009, the FDA banned makers of baby bottles and sippy cups from using BPA’s in their products. And yet,  BPA was still used in the making of containers that held baby formula. The FDA got around to banning that in 2013.

The FDA still considers BPA to be more or less safe for the general population, but there are studies done with laboratory animals that suggest BPA may not be so safe after all. In 2006, a panel of medical experts met in Chapel Hill, NC, to discuss the matter and in their summary said that “BPA at concentrations found in the human body is associated with organizational changes in the prostate, breast, testis, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry, and behavior of laboratory animals.” (S. Vogel, "The Politics of Plastics: The Making and Unmaking of Bisphenol A 'Safety'". American Journal of Public Health. 99 (S3): 559–566.)

I suppose I should not be surprised that companies like this exist and that their goal is to mislead for the purpose of padding their clients’, and consequently, their own, pockets. But such maneuvers tear at the fabric of our community, which is built on trust. Perhaps we trust too much and have become complacent. Finding out about this company (and I’m sure there are others) reminds me that we must remain vigilant and speak out when we uncover attempts to mislead and put us, and our children, in harm’s way. While we probably cannot influence companies like Brandpoint to not present misleading advertising, we can insist that our local purveyors of the news, like the Portsmouth Herald, not be a party to such misdirection. Let them know that it is not socially responsible to print an item as news when it is, in fact, an advertisement.


Native advertising, and the MAT release in particular, is one of those solutions. A MAT release (or master of aligned type, for all you 1950s marketing geeks) is a piece of branded content that mimics a news article. It presents factual information in the form of a narrative, distilled into about 500 to 700 words (minus the disclaimers) and distributed to several newspapers, as well as traditional and digital marketing outlets. And there lies the greatest opportunity for pharma companies.

The mighty MAT release is helping brands usually bogged down with legal red tape to use their most compelling asset: patient stories. These stories of patients, their ailments and their recoveries make these companies truly unique, and this form of native advertising offers the perfect medium. Just like any other story, the best kind is about a person with a specific malady that your product or service helps alleviate, with a clear beginning, middle and end. And just like that, you’ve got a piece of content that is genuine, unique and versatile, whether it’s used as part of an ad, PR or social currency.

FDA regulations aren’t going away any time soon. Pharma companies will still have to include their hefty disclaimers, their less-than-enticing side effects and whatever else the FDA requires of them. But these brands can utilize the MAT release and its narrative structure to tell patient-centric stories and create a lasting impact on a massive audience. We should know. We’ve written a few thousand of them. It’s perhaps a little more complicated than the minimalist, less-is-more examples you see in those timeless VW ads (and yes, those disclaimers and ISI info still need to be a part of the release), but it’s an incredibly effective means for pharma companies to detach from the visual and focus on the patient to tell the story.

No matter your industry, Brandpoint’s Mat release services don’t stop at writing. We also handle editing and provide access to one of the largest distribution networks in the country. Check us out for more information.

(Copied from Brandpoints page entitled An Advertising Solution for Pharma Companies.)

The key conclusions of the report included expression of some concern over the potential for developmental toxicicty for fetuses, infants, and children. And this was based primarily on evidence from animal studies that would suggest that there might be effects on the development of the prostate gland, and the brain, and also for the potential for behavioral effects. There was also a lower level of concern, minimal concern, expressed over potential for changes in the development of the mammary gland and also for the age at which females attain puberty. There was also a level of minimal concern expressed for workers exposed in occupational settings. But with the exception of that, exposures to adults were considered to be not particularly risky for exposures to BPA.

The fact that there are so many levels of uncertainty make it very difficult for us to make any kind of overall recommendations as to how exactly the U.S. public should view bisphenol A right at this point, but it clearly has also identified a number of research areas that we think need to be followed up on in great detail to give us a better handle and reduce some of these uncertainties and allow a clearer picture of exactly what we should be doing as a society with regards to exposures to BPA.(2008, the National Toxicology Program )

In 2006, the US Government sponsored an assessment of the scientific literature on BPA. Thirty-eight experts in fields involved with bisphenol A gathered in Chapel Hill, North Carolina to review several hundred studies on BPA, many conducted by members of the group. At the end of the meeting, the group issued the Chapel Hill Consensus Statement,[52] which stated "BPA at concentrations found in the human body is associated with organizational changes in the prostate, breast, testis, mammary glands, body size, brain structure and chemistry, and behavior of laboratory animals."[53] The Chapel Hill Consensus Statement stated that average BPA levels in people were above those that cause harm to many animals in laboratory experiments. It noted that while BPA is not persistent in the environment or in humans, biomonitoring surveys indicate that exposure is continuous. This is problematic because acute animal exposure studies are used to estimate daily human exposure to BPA, and no studies that had examined BPA pharmacokinetics in animal models had followed continuous low-level exposures. The authors added that measurement of BPA levels in serum and other body fluids suggests the possibilities that BPA intake is much higher than accounted for or that BPA can bioaccumulate in some conditions (such as pregnancy).[52]  (Chapel Hill bisphenol A expert panel consensus statement: Integration of mechanisms, effects in animals and potential to impact human health at current levels of exposure)


Posted on 22 Sep 2016, 11:40 - Category: Politics

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