Pfizer and Its Scientists Take Us Through the Lengthy Creation of a Life-Saving Drug

A not-so-sterile story of discovery

From price gouging to tax evasion, the pharmaceutical industry has made some pretty hefty missteps in recent history. With that in mind, drug maker Pfizer has set out to repair its sector's crumbling reputation.

The spot, "Before it Became a Medicine," opens on a young father popping a pill in his bathroom, then takes the viewer on the drug's lengthy journey from a scientist's idea to prescription. Along the way, we witness eureka moments, trials, failures, success, and ultimately, a fabled cure. 

The 60-second spot—from agency HealthWork (a joint venture between Omnicom's BBDO New York and CDM)—follows bad press for Pfizer and the pharma industry as a whole. But in a space where commercials are usually sterile, it's surprisingly thoughtful and inspiring. 

"Before it Became a Medicine" is part of a broader initiative called "Driven to Discover the Cure." "We are taking the opportunity to tell our story of how we bring new therapies to patients and our drive to develop the cures that people and their families need," a Pfizer rep tells AdFreak. "Our hope is that if more people understand what it takes to bring a new medicine to patients, that together we can create a better environment for discovering treatments today and in the future." 

Five Pfizer scientists are featured in the TV ad—all cancer and vaccine researchers. In addition, Pfizer's stories of discovery includes a mini documentary about Bob Abraham, group lead of the Oncology-Rinat R&D at Pfizer, and Matt Hiznay, a lung cancer patient. See that spot below, and more about the campaign at

Additionally, it's been a scant week and a half since the popular publication (and ongoing art project) Humans of New York raised an impressive $3.8 million for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The photo series was a poignant reminder that science, and the resources that fund it, saves lives. In its own way, Pfizer underlines the same point here.

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Roo Powell is freelance contributor to Adweek.