GSK to fund film on emotional eating

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KAI RYSSDAL: The beautiful people are up in Park City, Utah, this weekend. The Sundance Film Festival opened there yesterday. At an opening night screening, founder Robert Redford said he's felt Sundance has been slipping the last couple of years. Too much big studio money getting in the way of good indie film making. That being the case, Mr. Redford's probably not so pleased about GlaxoSmithKline going Hollywood.

The pharmaceutical company, one of whose products is the fat-blocking pill Alli, is funding a documentary about -- wait for it now -- the hazards of mindless and emotional eating. Glaxo's making the scene at Sundance this weekend to drum up a little celebrity support.

From the Marketplace Health Desk at WHYY, Gregory Warner reports.


Gregory Warner: GlaxoSmithKline is bankrolling a documentary it hopes will do for obesity what "An Inconvenient Truth" did for global warming. The drug maker doesn't care so much if you actually see the movie, so long as you talk about it. The impact of "An Inconvenient Truth" had more to do with the events around the film, says media analyst Johanna Blakely at the University of Southern California.

Johanna Blakely: "An Inconvenient Truth" is an excellent example of a documentary that not many people really saw, but everybody was talking about it, because it was getting so much coverage in the media and part of that was driven by these house parties.

House parties, private screenings and other forums for discussions about obesity -- that's what GlaxoSmithKline is aiming for.

Karen Scollick is one of the few Glaxo executives who was not on a plane to Sundance this morning.

Karen Scollick: So my hope, our hope would be that there is a new level of collective consciousness that is raised by using such a creative vehicle.

And a new level of sales for Glaxo's drug Alli. Sales have been hampered by the drug's yucky side effects. Google "poopy in the pants" on YouTube and you'll see the PR problem.

This year, Alli revamped its ad campaign. Instead of focusing on the drugs, it focuses on our unhealthy relationship to food.

Alli TV ad: First, you become more conscious about what you eat. Then, at every meal, Alli stops some of the fat from being absorbed.

Scollick says building buzz at Sundance is just the first step in starting a national conversation about how we eat, brought to you by GlaxoSmithKline.

In Philadelphia, I'm Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

About the author

Gregory Warner is a senior reporter covering the economics and business of healthcare for the entire Marketplace portfolio.

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