Talk about being desperate to turn things around. Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ) has started direct-to-consumer advertising for its drug-eluting stent, Cypher.

Now, having little computer-generated moths selling Sepracor's (NASDAQ:SEPR) Lunesta sleeping aid, or Rafael Palmeiro hawking Pfizer's (NYSE:PFE) Viagra ... those I can understand. Those drugs offer assistance with health problems about which people might start up a conversation with their doctor.

But I have a hard time imagining patients sitting in a cardiologist's office wanting to discuss a commercial about a stent-focused television spot they saw during last Sunday's football game. Heart surgery seems like something most consumers would defer to their doctors about.

After seeing the stent market deflate considerably over safety concerns, J&J has fought back with data suggesting that its stents are safe. The marketing campaign aims in part to relieve patients' concerns and sway them from choosing alternative options -- bypass surgery, bare-metal stents, or drug therapy, for example -- to treat their heart condition.

The real reason for the new campaign is probably that J&J and Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) are likely to get additional competition in 2008. It appears that the FDA will approve both Medtronic's (NYSE:MDT) Endeavor and Abbott Laboratories' (NYSE:ABT) Xience V in the coming months. Suddenly, branding becomes much more important than it was when there were just two players.

Not that I don't think that J&J and Boston Scientific should be advertising. They should be -- heavily, in fact. But they should be spending the money, as they have in the past, on advertising to doctors. They'll get much more bang for their buck that way, compared with advertising stents directly to consumers.

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