Last night Kish and I were watching TV. When the show went to break, the first commercial to be aired was for a specific drug to treat a specific ailment. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise. As the American population has aged and drug manufacturers have developed drugs targeting virtually every condition, large and small, drug commercials have assumed an ever-greater prominence on TV broadcasts.
Here’s a leading indicator of how our society is drenched in drugs: we’re seeing more and more drug commercials, even during football game broadcasts. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in some markets, drug commercials have knocked beer commercials off their long-time perch as the dominant football game ad time buyer. It’s to the point that I expect that, in the very near future, we’ll see college football bowl games sponsored by specific drugs: “Good afternoon, and welcome to the Zillopraxin Bowl, from beautiful East Adobe Springs, Texas! And remember–if you’ve got scabies, be sure to ask your doctor about Zillopraxin!”
And here’s another thing about the drug commercials. Every person who is featured in the commercial is portrayed as leading the richest, most active life imaginable. They’re shooting rockets into the air, taking samba dance classes in public parks, riding cool convertibles to exotic open-air markets to try on jewelry, getting together with hilarious friends at great bars, jogging, swimming, hiking, and doing just about everything other than being sick and sad and homebound. And nobody in the commercial seems to be suffering from the endless roster of side effects that the announcer intones while you’re watching the drug-takers have the time of their lives–especially the one “rare but potentially fatal” condition that apparently has befallen a tiny minority of people who tried the new drug during clinical trials.
I’m sure there’s a lot of message-testing that goes into making these drug commercials, and the results indicate that these commercials are appealing and compelling to the sick people who are the intended audience. It’s weird to think that drug prescriptions for serious health conditions are being driven by the patients, rather than their doctors, raising potential treatments. It also seems kind of cruel to play on the emotions of people who are sick, but maybe the commercials give them hope that, if they just ask their doctors about enough drugs, they’ll eventually find the right one that will allow them to get out to the park for those samba dancing lessons.
In any case, the constantly increasing stream of drug commercials tells us that they are an effective way of selling drugs. That’s why it will be just a matter of time before we’re all watching the Zillopraxin Bowl.