Monday, November 06, 2006

TV Commercial Hall of Shame: First Inductee

I like TV. I like it very much. And like most people I put up with commercials because they are necessary -- they have to pay the bills and all that.

Now as works of art, most TV commercials suck, particularly local commercials featuring spokespeople who forget how to string a sentence together once they are in front of the camera. C'est la vie. But every once in a while, I see a commercial that fills me with moral outrage and I just have to say something about it. And what are blogs for if not to pontificate about modern culture?

I'm talking about ads like the ones the government put out recently to promote work place safety. In one, a harried father is rushing about the kitchen trying to make dinner for one kid and help another kid with homework; but wait, that's not another kid who needs help learning to spell, that's a full grown woman whose been disabled by an injury! Another ad in the same series shows a little girl who clearly does not want to go out in public with her father who needs help to dress himself due to his injury. The message here is that you should watch yourself at work or else you may end up disabled, and, according to the government, disabled people are an embarrassment and burden on their families. Shame!

But those are a bit old, and my aim is to identify ads currently on the air to ad them to my Hall of Shame.

And the first inductee is: Pfizer, maker of the painkiller Celebrex! Current ads for Celebrex show a series of older folks turning to the camera and enjoing the viewer in various earnest ways, to "ask your doctor about it." Now, under Canadian law as I understand it, drug companies can say the name of the drug or what it does, but not both, so the makers of Celebrex are hoping that older Canadians will take their advice and ask their doctors. Fair enough. That's advertising. But here's the kicker: at the end of the ad, a particularly earnest grandmother type, looks right into the lens and says, "Ask your doctor. He's the expert."

Now, it's bad enough that this commercial implies that patients are supposed to do whatever their physicians advise -- after all, what the hell do patients know? This is especially interesting since a Google search of Celebrex brings up plenty of stories about lawsuits that have been filed against Pfizer in connection with the drug. What really makes this ad shameful, though, is the pronoun: "HE's the expert." He? Leave it to Pfizer to tell us that not only are doctors unimpeachable experts, they are all men too. Women have had to fight hard to gain access to the medical profession and the slow progress can be reasonably attributed to the attitude that real medicine is serious business and only suitable for men -- and this is the attitude that Pfizer encourages with ads like this one. Shame on you Pfizer.

1 comment:

Thought, A Brilliant Disaster said...

Well said. To be honest, the corporate world of advertising and the media is the exact reason I do not watch television anymore. Most of this advertisements are made the way they are for a reason - not purely out of ignorance to the situation. These people have "experts" create their advertising story boards to provoke mental imagery in the viewer. The fact that you spoke up about it shows that they are - although negatively in this case - doing their jobs. Asside from a mere programs, I refuse to watch television... unless of course I'd like to entertain myself with bullshit advertising and "subliminal" messaging. Anyway, I'm simply rambling - you make very valid arguments here.