Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie care about drug development? They suddenly hunger to learn more about sponsor-CRO partnerships, PDUFA and Critical Path, and thus they showed up at the Drug Information Association's (DIA) 45th annual meeting to drink it all in? They are curious about science in addition to being gorgeous, rich and fertile?

Wait—those were actually Brad and Angelina impersonators at the BioClinica booth at DIA. But they looked so authentic! He sported glossy, tan skin and a tweed cap. She had big lips, long brown tresses cinched back tight, and huge sunglasses. Facial features on both were almost dead on. Brad (actually Ryan) and Angie (actually Tatiana) were Hollywood aloof yet exhibit-floor accommodating as they hung out in the BioClinica booth letting “paparazzi” take pictures of them with giggling passersby.

Brangelina Buzz

Ersatz Brangelina created the biggest scene we saw on the exhibitor floor at DIA, and thus BioClinica gets top prize from us this year: Best Exhibit Floor Buzz Generator.

Jim Dorsey, BioClinica's VP of marketing, was delighted with the attention at the booth. The theme, he told us, was Hollywood Premiere, and intended to reflect the April debut of BioClinica, the company's new brand name after the purchase of electronic data capture firm Phoenix Data Systems by Bio-Imaging Technologies. Photos of the attendees with Brad and Angelina are on the company's website, where a contest is also under way.

Swag On Wheels

Quintiles wins in the Best Swag category. The top CRO gave away sporty red-and-gray rolling backpacks to all who sat through its video presentations. Attendees were oohing and ahhing over the luggage.

Best Consumable goes to ERT, which had fast-moving and serious-looking barristas in their booth using a hissing espresso machine to concoct lattes and the like for large, caffeine-hungry crowds. ERT was also entering people into a drawing to win a $500 espresso machine.

We appreciated that Parexel had a Dippin' Dots (The Ice Cream of the Future) stand at their booth, and that sanofi aventis was giving out strawberry and mango smoothies as a hat tip to California healthiness.

Other notable efforts:

InVentiv had a blue Honda Fit parked at its booth and filled to the rim with colored ping-pong balls. The gimmick: Guess the number of balls and win the Fit. Or, technically, a two-year lease on it. Last year, InVentiv's Tim Divane told us, the company did the same giveaway, but the person who won couldn't accept it for ethical reasons. So InVentiv gave it to the charity of her choice: The Red Cross's efforts to help women in Afghanistan. Also interesting: the winner gets to open up the car door and release the thousands of balls onto the exhibit hall floor—with sincere apologies to convention center janitorial staff, we're assuming.

We were also taken with the cute canines in front of the convention center. Smart move by Camargo Pharmaceutical Services, which paid local dog walkers to don Camargo t-shirts and walk around with a variety of dogs handing out cards that read: “Old dogs can learn new tricks at booth #207.”

Happiness Is...

The CRO Jean Brown Research was providing free massages. TransPerfect had sales reps gliding around on roller skates wearing spandex to promote their '80s party at the Hard Rock Cafe. Acurian was giving away yellow t-shirts featuring a smiley face and the words “Happiness is Randomization.” We liked the idea of how ... random that will appear to folks back home who aren't in the industry.

Finally, there was BBK Worldwide's origami/haiku giveaway, designed to draw attention to the opening of the company's new office in Osaka, Japan. The handsomely packaged kit—which offers a team-building exercise that incorporates origami and haiku into a tutorial about study start up—was clever. Although we still have fond memories of BBK's custom-made, research-centric Monopoly game two years ago. People are still swooning about that.

by Suz Redfearn