IQ News: Plain Talk

DrDrew.com doesn’t shy away from sex, drugs or controversy. By Erik Gruenwedel
What do you do for an encore when you’ve attracted $9 million in venture capital, garnered coverage in major dailies coast to coast and won kudos from the Harvard Business School Club of New York? If you’re Pasadena, Calif.-based drDrew.com, an upstart lifestyle media company, you give away 1 million condoms.
The prophylactic promo, which began Feb. 4, offers three condoms to anybody over the age of 16 who registers on the site. No doubt intended to increase traffic to the site, which currently has a registered user base of 100,000 15-to-25-year-olds, the giveaway is also sure to generate controversy.
That’s nothing new for drDrew.com. Since its October launch, it has attracted a fair amount of comment from the likes of the Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Wall Street Journal.
The site features the usual chat rooms, polls, forums, buddy lists, newsletters and Q&As. What sets it apart from similar youth-oriented fare is Dr. Drew Pinsky, a 41-year-old board-certified internist and co-host of the nationally syndicated Loveline radio and MTV shows who’s renowned for his nonjudgmental attitude and frank discussion of sex, drugs and other teen topics.
Pinsky strives to communicate with teenagers on their terms. “Young people don’t want to hear about health information from a man in a white coat,” says the graduate of the University of Southern California’s medical school. “To get through to teens, you have to meet them on their turf.”
Music and TV celebrities such as ex-Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, rappers Warren G and B-Real, and comedian Andy Dick have appeared on the site as peer counselors. “If you look at the strongest modalities for delivering information to young people, it’s through music, humor and peers,” Pinsky points out.
While Pinsky’s approach has gained him a teen following, it also has attracted criticism. In the March issue of FamilyPC, for instance, readers ranked drDrew.com last in a list of e-docs. Calling the content “pop medicine,” one mother accused drDrew.com of “a veiled approval of drug use and premarital sex.”
“They did not read the site,” bristles Pinsky in response. “Everything in there is about not having sex.” Distributing condoms along with information on abstinence, pregnancy and STDs gives young people options, he maintains.
“If two people are in a committed, long-term relationship, physical intimacy is normal and healthy,” he says. “Teenagers compulsively acting out sexually to feel better–that’s unhealthy. And I sure hope they’re using condoms.”
Pinsky, who is married and the father of 7-year-old triplets, acknowledges that the Internet can be misused. He believes it “will never be a medium for treatment,” since “you must have your hands on a patient in order to ethically treat them.”
DrDrew.com has an e-commerce alliance with online drugstore More.com. Advertising partners Yahoo!, GlaxoWellcome, MTV.com, Egreetings.com., Yack.com and MXG.com, to name a few, have generated about $600,000 in revenue. The company hired Kristine Schiller, former head of West Coast sales for E! Entertainment in Los Angeles, as senior vice president of sales last month to spearhead revenue possibilities.
Other recent additions to the 41-employee staff include senior vice president of marketing Heidi Sinclair, former CEO of BrandXMedia, an Internet/TV content company in Beverly Hills, Calif., and vice president of business development Dan Sheehy, formerly a vice president with Disney’s GO.com network, Burbank, Calif.
A West Coast ad agency search will commence this month. The P.R. agency of record is Rogers & Cowan of Los Angeles. n