...don't even ignore 'em.
-- Samuel Goldwyn

Friday, June 16, 2006


If you watch TV, you must experience symptoms of some sort at least once a day--you're exposed to so many pharmaceutical commercials, it's unavoidable. (We're working on a pill for that.)

This is a tutorial in Weasel Words-Spotting. Weasel Words are voiced messages in TV commercials that, to the casual TV watcher, sound utterly logical, but are, in fact, nonsense. Weasel Word production is a skill ad copywriters learn early and often: the meticulous crafting of persuasive doubletalk, when the product you must sell has no competitive advantage. I speak from experience.

My example today: the Avodart TV commercial. Here's a link. Go watch it, and look for the real information on the Avodart Web site. Avodart is a prescription prostate-shrinking drug. Here's the commercial's suspect passage--as close as I care to get to verbatim:

"...most prostate medicines just treat symptoms. Avodart actually shrinks your prostate, and improves your symptoms...."
While you're watching that cute animated prostate gland shrink before your very eyes, you're not listening closely to the narration. It kinda weasels right by. How do you suppose prostate medicines "treat" symptoms caused by an aging, growing prostate? Gotta shrink the thing, folks. Like Saw Palmetto does for many men; it's an over-the-counter herbal supplement with a good reputation and a much lower price than prescription medications. Do your own Web search and see what's out there (Google).

If, after this dehype tutorial, you become an enlightened consumer, you'll listen closely to TV drug advertising claims in the future. You'll be able to spot the well-crafted nonsense right away. Don't "ask your doctor if Avodart is right for you." Ask your doctor, first, to do a prostate exam, including a PSA test, to catch the possibility of cancer of the prostate.

There's no law against Weasel Words, but when used in prescription drug advertising they cost you, Medicare, and your insurance company a lot of money. Marketing has infected medicine and healthcare with its particular variety of corruption. The remedy is attention, a free resource. Caveat emptor. And just say no to drug ads.

1 comment:

geoff said...

I always loved the dish and laundry soap commercials that stated that the soap "actually targets the dirt." Yeah, right, and George Bush can actually think.