August 1, 2008
I don't want a commercial in my commercial, and I can't grasp drug ads
Posted by Alan Childress
I already have enough trouble watching the pharmaceutical commercials that fill nightly news programs. First, that fact alone makes me uncomfortable that I am watching the news at all, because I realize it means someone has spent acres of money figuring out the demographic of the sick and dying, and by definition I am it while watching. Based on the same logic that made me decide never to drive to the airport ("the risk of death is higher driving to the airport than blah blah blah"), I now commit to stop watching the nightly news in an effort at immortality, or at least to stay regular.
Second, I have a lot of trouble figuring out what the drugs are even for. Oh, I know that is because of lawyers: the pharmy companies don't have to disclose all sorts of side effects if they never make any medical claims, so they give dreamy brand-imprinting commercials with no discernible symptom they are trying to fix. But that means I have to use all my powers of deduction and all sorts of fleeting visual clues, like watching a David Mamet screenplay, to be able to hazard a guess as to what's going on. I know I could just ignore them, but too many years of television and formal education make that psychologically impossible for me. I am a hooked audience for such mysteries and I dutifully try to locate the cheese.
But I understand why drug companies might prefer an unintelligible Pan's Labyrinth ad to one that says the side effects. The ones that do disclose? I cannot believe anyone would take that drug after hearing what it might do to you. No cure is worth that, I always reason. Even one for social anxiety disorder lists flatulence as a possible result, so I worry that someone will take it and finally go to that group party they have been avoiding, only to -- in one public moment -- become a social laughingstock never to leave the house again (ah, I get it, unless they take another drug). The only explanation for the existence and utility of such ads is that I am not the target audience, since I am risk averse (hence the no-to-the-airport policy). These ads are for risk lovers, who hear the ad and want to defy the odds, to gamble. I will spray the Nasonex up my nose rather than just blowing my nose, and see if I can be one of the special people who does not get headaches, dryness, wetness, bleeding, or a sudden cough. Fun times.
Now I see that Wal-Mart has a TV commercial that is itself "sponsored by Huggies." I have had enough. Wal-Mart is such an entity unto itself that its ads have ads. It is like a Greek city-state now. I cannot watch a perfectly fine Wal-Mart commercial -- apparently now a TV show in its own right -- without it being interrupted by the crass commercialism of a commercial for Huggies. What kind of ADHD demographic are they targeting for that? Hey you got Huggies ad in my Wal-Mart ad, no you got Wal-Mart ad in my Huggies one. I prefer to stay on point with one ad per ad. I don't want to have to figure out who is running this ad any more than I want to figure out what the drug is for. Oh, no, do they have a [legal] drug to stop seeing the world as Andy Rooney would? I will take it, whatever the side effects! Or find myself missing the nightly news because I started dinner at 4:45 (and, worse, maybe need a Huggies Convertible).
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