Usually, a single innovative contribution to marketing science is enough to establish a reputation. Reginald (“Reg”) Bowes created strikingly original ideas that greatly benefited the products on which they were first tried—proving their validity. These concepts were picked up by the Rx industry and became accepted as standard marketing tactics. Add to these accomplishments a persona flavored with the 1960s’ spirit of rebellion, a passion for intellectual pursuits of all kinds, unconventional dress, and an often undiplomatic style with clients and colleagues, and you have the classic iconoclast—brilliant, eccentric, unpredictable.
Bowes was one of the founders of the San Francisco agency Vicom. It was there that he advanced the idea which is at the top of his list of accomplishments: applied adopted sequencing. Bowes had immersed himself in behavioral science and applied what he had learned to the influence pyramid among physicians. He advocated targeting “early adopters” in the first stage of a pharmaceutical’s introduction, recognizing that as “thought leaders,” their use of a new product would be noted by other MDs who would follow their example. The idea was first applied to the introduction of Naprosyn for Syntex with remarkable results.
Paul Freiman, former chairman of Syntex, recalls, “I was the head of marketing and I had forecasted boldly…a $12 million product at its peak. Turned out this was one of the first billion-dollar products in the industry…and I can truly say that this was due to Bowes’ presence and his forcefulness in pushing this concept. Naprosyn was the product that made our company and Reg is the guy that made Naprosyn.”
For Bowes, being part of the founding of Vicom and the smashing success of Naprosyn represented an off-the-canvas comeback into Rx marketing. He had started in the business as a sales representative for Ayerst in Canada. (Bowes is from British Columbia.) He moved into advertising with a Rochester, New York, agency, became a product manager at Roche, and culminated his East Coast career as a senior vice president at the consumer agency Ted Bates, which had important pharmaceutical clients in the late ’60s. At this point, he took the unprecedented step of openly criticizing pharmaceutical promotional practices, speaking out at industry meetings and even appearing before a congressional committee investigating Rx marketing.
Explaining this period in Bowes’ life, Lester Barnett, a long-time colleague, says, “Reg is a moralist. He believes in ethics. One of the things that got him into trouble…is that he had a stance on what he believed we should be as an industry…what we should be doing and what we shouldn’t be doing.”