Erectile Dysfunction Medication Commercials Are Targeting Younger Men

by Cam Fraser // April 27 // 0 Comments

Have you noticed anything about how the demographic of men who erectile dysfunction medication is marketed towards has changed over the years?

In March 1998, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of the drug Viagra to treat erectile dysfunction. That year alone, 6.3 million prescriptions of Viagra were written (Lexchin, 2006).

This was largely in part due to Pfizer's marketing and advertising. For example, between 1999 and 2001, Pfizer spent over $303 million in direct-to-consumer advertising for Viagra (Lexchin, 2006).

One of the first Viagra commercials to air on television in 1998 included 75-year-old former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole talking about the side effects of prostate cancer treatment, with an obvious target audience.

However, as sociology professor Meika Loe points out in her 2004 book, The Rise of Viagra, Pfizer shifted it's strategy to target a younger demographic. She writes, "Ironically, at some point Pfizer realised that this 'target generation', specifically those post-prostate cancer, had among the lowest likelihood of Viagra success, and quickly created a new ad campaign."

Driven by profits, the company shifted it's marketing messages, a trend we can follow over the last 25 years.

For example, a 2000 Viagra commercial showcases a selection of men, some of whom are obviously older, like Bob Dole, while others appear to be at least a decade younger.

By 2006, one Viagra commercial from that year appears to show a man slightly younger still.

In 2014, Pfizer would change tack, hiring 44-year-old British soap actress Linette Beaumont to star as the first women in a Viagra commercial.

With Pfizer's patents on Viagra expiring in 2020, a new wave of erectile dysfunction medication companies and advertisements emerged, targeting even younger men, like this 2023 YouTube ad from the men's health app Hims.

Pfizer, Hims, and other such companies argue that they're informing the public and removing the stigma of erectile dysfunction. I argue that they've just recreated and repackaged the anxiety associated with erectile dysfunction, marketing fear through inducing performance anxiety.

I'd go further and argue that the representations of younger men in these advertisements actually creates worry and stress, and potentially erectile dysfunction itself (because of the worry and stress).

So, when you hear claims of widespread erectile dysfunction, particularly among younger men, consider who is making this claim and who benefits from making it.

Cam Fraser is a Certified Professional Sex Coach and Certified Sexologist. Being a former Tantric Yoga Teacher, his work integrates scientifically validated, medically accurate information about sexual health, with sacred sexuality teachings from the mystery traditions. As a coach, he helps men go beyond surface-level sex and into full-bodied, self-expressed, pleasure-oriented sexual experiences free of anxiety or shame.

Learn more about masculinity and sexuality. Start Now!