Dexcom Super Bowl Ad: Did it Miss the Mark?

Diabetes

By Caroline Levens

Editor’s Note:

Nick Jonas, a music celebrity living with with type 1 diabetes (T1D) partnered with Dexcom and recorded a Super Bowl commercial for diabetes advocacy. Some in the diabetes community, however, feel that it missed the mark entirely. One of our contributors, Caroline, shared why.

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When I first heard that Dexcom had an ad in the Super Bowl, I was quite surprised — but also really excited about the prospect of them bringing mainstream awareness to diabetes. Once I saw the ad, however, I was immediately disappointed, and I think it’s important to shed light on why the execution was so poor, in my opinion. 

First and foremost, the ad has Nick Jonas exclaim in a condescending tone “people with diabetes are still pricking their fingers…what??”

If you aren’t familiar with Dexcom, it’s a continuous glucose monitor (CGM), meaning it shares blood glucose readings every five minutes. And while it’s an amazing product, it’s not cheap — current Dexcom pricing without insurance is $4,744 per year. Insulin is an essential cost for diabetics, whereas Dexcom is a luxury. According to T1International, spending by patients with type 1 diabetes (T1D) on insulin nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016, increasing from $2900 to $5700, and one of every four patients with T1D has had to ration their insulin due to cost.

It goes without saying – spending $10k+ on diabetes annually is a lot of money. When we’re in the middle of a pandemic where many people have lost their jobs and insurance, the way Dexcom comes across here is quite inconsiderate. I can’t think of a single other product category where a brand would think it’d be okay to frame a product in this context. Sure, there are many categories where the luxury price point is out of reach for the average consumer. But you don’t see them with commercials rubbing it in “what, you can’t afford us??” The analogy isn’t perfect, but it’s comparable to a luxury appliance brand with a Super Bowl ad saying, “people are still washing clothes by hand and using clotheslines, what??”

Secondly, the ad is very misleading, and they even have to have a legal disclaimer “Fingersticks required for diabetes treatment decisions if symptoms or expectations do not match readings.” I’d love to meet a Dexcom user who no longer needs ANY fingersticks. I love my Dexcom, I really do – I’ve been a loyal Dexcom user since 2008 and am extremely fortunate to have it.

That said, the accuracy, though it’s improved over the years, is still not perfect. And, accurate blood glucose values are essential for insulin dosing precision. Many endocrinologists specifically recommend not dosing off of Dexcom’s value. I can’t even count the number of times I would have died – and no I’m not exaggerating – if I had trusted the value on Dexcom. There are also many times it has error messages and doesn’t display any values and you need to use fingersticks (in the past week alone, I’ve had 20+ hours of this). There are also 2-hour warm up periods where you may need to check your blood sugar levels. No doubt in my mind, Nick Jonas pricks his finger, but of course if you pay him enough for a commercial, he’ll say what Dexcom wants him to say.

Last but not least, there’s already a big stigma associated with fingerpricks. It shouldn’t have to be something people are ashamed to do — it’s absolutely vital for survival — but I’ve experienced it before myself, especially in high school, and even still occasionally am uncomfortable checking my blood sugar in work settings, around new people etc. New technology is great, but “othering” fingersticks does not help. 

Dexcom, think about the little boy watching the Super Bowl who is already ashamed to prick his finger, knows Dexcom exists from diabetes camp (and from your lovely ad), wants it, his parents also want it for him, but it’s not a financial possibility. How do you think your ad makes him feel? Does it matter to you? Sure, the world’s not perfect. I 100% realize not everyone can get what they want. But this ad could have been approached in a completely different way that I believe would have delivered as strong as business results for Dexcom without doing any harm to the diabetes community. Dexcom had a big opportunity, and quite frankly, blew it.

Check it out for yourself and please share your thoughts in the comments:

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