So how do you get Dr. Oz to cover your product and the science behind it? It’s a million-dollar question without a clear answer. Those who have been on the show either don’t know how it happened, or, if they do, they are reluctant to share many details. Scott Steil, president of Nutra Bridge, can’t specifically explain how the 7-Keto weight loss ingredient he reps got mentioned in two Oz segments in 2012. “I don’t know how exactly it came to be or the criteria Oz used to pick the products he covers—other than being active in getting the word out on a product and its benefits,” Steil says.
Having a weight-loss ingredient doesn’t hurt either — weight loss may not be the only topic covered on the show, but it is certainly a common one.
Beyond strong consumer interest in a given condition, ingredient research and clinical trials are another key element. “I don’t want to give too many details about how we did it,” says Frank Jaksch, CEO of ChromaDex, “but we had an active strategy to facilitate that sort of coverage and obviously it worked.”
Dr. Oz covered two ingredients that ChromaDex supplies in the same segment—pterostilbene and CG3. “Some people say it can take years before you can see traction for something like this. It probably took us six months to achieve the coverage. In a nutshell, we made a team effort and worked a lot of different channels to drive awareness of the ingredients and what they do, so the producers would feel comfortable covering them,” Jaksch says.
Next Pharmaceuticals proactively pitched information about its branded relaxation ingredient Relora to producers of the show. “We went after them from a couple of different angles,” says Regan Miles, Next's president. “Our sales people developed relationships with producers on the show and sent them information about clinical trials, showing them that it was clinically substantiated.”
The product is one of the few branded ingredients covered recently, but Oz now rarely, if ever, mentions branded products or ingredients. Oz has been criticized in the media for some of the products he’s covered, and some speculate that the implied endorsement of products led to legal and even regulatory questions. “I think they got gun shy about endorsing brands, and I think it's doubtful that they will go back to that,” says Jaksch.
Miles knows that the show’s producers don’t necessarily just take your press materials at face value. “A producer told us that they bought some of the product, gave it to people and verified that it worked and that they were pleased with the results.”
Having a medical expert support the ingredient and research is another plus. Paul Dijkstra, CEO of InterHealth Nutraceuticals, the supplier of the branded Garcinia cambogia ingredient Super Citrimax, said that when Dr. Oz covered Garcinia cambogia, he interviewed Harry Preuss, MD, for the segment. “Dr. Preuss was the lead researcher on the Super Citrimax research studies,” says Dijkstra.
Oz & effect
Once Dr. Oz decides to cover a particular ingredient, things happen fast. Most companies cite about four to five days advance notice to prepare for the airing of a segment and all that comes with it. “I would compare it to a tsunami—a good one, but it was pure chaos,” says Steil. “When this hits, the demand can crush your supply chain. We know of other companies that were stocked out for months.”
The impact of the 2012 coverage for Nutra Bridge was dramatic, with triple-digit sales increases and the company’s best year to date. Similarly, Oz’s segment on Garcinia cambogia prompted a tremendous increase in sales for current customers of Super Citrimax, says Dijkstra. “We also added new customers, who seized the opportunity to formulate with Super Citrimax.”
Next Pharmaceuticals felt a similar impact, with products selling out within a few days of the segment airing. “We had several months’ worth of inventory and that was gone in a week,” said Miles. “We were lucky that our supplier could send more product from China. But we didn’t get ahead of our shipping for four to five months.
“It was a game changer in a business our size,” Miles adds. “If we had had the inventory on hand from the start, we could have done more.” The second mention of Relora in April kicked up awareness again and sustained demand into the summer months.
The ultimate impact for most companies is extremely positive, but the majority would not call the opportunity sustainable. “I would argue that this kind of publicity is business altering for a company over the short term, but unless the publicity continues at the same rate every year, the impact will erode over time,” Steil says.
A company must be prepared to manage expectations in subsequent years. “It would be foolish to predict that kind of growth every year,” Steil says.
Companies mentioned in early 2012 had to comply with strict rules about how and when they could promote their upcoming Dr. Oz segment. Miles says that, early last year, Next Pharmaceuticals had to sign several contracts that restricted what they could say on their website and how long they could post a link to the segment on Relora. “This year when they called and said they were airing a segment on Relora, we asked what restrictions they had and they said, ‘We don’t do that anymore,’ ” says Miles.
The opportunity to capitalize on interest in an ingredient leads to a proliferation of bad actors, whose business strategy is simply to make money selling products that Oz mentions. These companies learn what Dr. Oz will talk about and then set up a product and website within days to take advantage of the sales spike. When demand drops, they disappear.
Such was the case when Dr. Oz featured green coffee bean for weight loss. Oz likely picked up on green coffee bean after Applied Food Sciences (AFS) released human clinical trial results, says Jaksch. “So there was a seed event from the innovator. But now, every hack in the market is all over it. The only clinically relevant ingredient is the AFS material. God knows what’s going into those other products.”
But what's the price to pay when consumers try products and feel no result?
Borrowing science for promotional reasons has been an industry concern for many years. But its acceleration over the last year prompts even those companies who have reaped the benefits of the Oz effect to consider it a double-edged sword. “It has been fabulous for giving the industry a shot in the arm, sales-wise,” says Miles. “But if people take the product and don’t have a good experience, it could really damage industry credibility.”
“We need someone like Dr. Oz who has the level of gravity he has to be out there educating consumers about potential health ingredients,” Jaksch says. “But I'm on the fence about it all because it helps a group who is not representative of the industry or our mission to deliver healthy products and help people. We need to support the companies who are building scientific support for the long-term play.”