Being in Canada, we get plenty of our entertainment from American sources. Sometimes on TV, that comes via American broadcasters who, of course, run American commercials. And sometimes–not often, but plenty, thanks–those ads are for pharmaceuticals.
And I’m struck more often than not when those ads play, just how little of the ad time talks about what the drug is and does, vs. the litany of potential side effects the drug can cause. My theory is that with the U.S. being a very litigious country, with so many who will sue the hell out of others at the drop of a hat (indeed, the dropping of someone’s hat may spur on legal action), the pharma companies are just playing it safe and covering the bases/their asses on anything and everything that may happen as a result of people taking their new medication. That way, if someone takes the drug and loses the use of the right side of their body and tries to sue the company over it, the company can demonstrate that they’ve taken all reasonable measures in their advertising to ensure that everyone was aware that hey, that was a possible side effect.
It’s no overstatement to say that the ad screen time of the myriad side effects can run longer than everything else in the ad combined, all while the visuals carry on showing healthy families having fun in the park or grandparents being all smiles and carefree while riding a bicycle built for two along the boardwalk.
This article about this past weekend’s Oprah interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle covers the pouring in of tweets from UK viewers who were blown away by the American broadcaster’s ads for pharmaceuticals. In the UK, it’s not legal for pharma companies to advertise to the public, so it’s small wonder that the other end of that extreme would’ve been a culture shock to many.
All of which inspired me to try my hand at writing some ad copy for a fictional medication for depression that I’ve called Liftupz.
For best effect, imagine the disclaimer part read by a confident-sounding voice sped up to be just barely coherent.
Do you suffer from depression? Ask your doctor if Liftupz is right for you.
Side effects of Liftupz can include dry mouth, increased blood pressure, tingling in the extremities, swelling of ankles and/or feet, loss of fingernails, mortifying body odor, vision reduced to black and white, temporary to permanent loss of all body hair, ravaging your reproductive system, extreme pica, hearing colors, the inability to stay quiet during a movie, excessive sweating, sweating blood, bleeding from eyes, bleeding from mouth, bleeding from urethra, bleeding from your friend’s urethra, brittle bone syndrome, cannibalism, becoming Schrödinger’s cat, diehard dedication to a political party you previously hated, staring into the void and the void staring back, the untimely demise of someone’s family pet, sporadic infantilism, realizing you’re in the Matrix, turning into a werewolf, shitting your pants, shitting your friend’s pants, loudly saying everything you text, all phobias at once, death, undeath, final death at the hands of a spontaneously manifested nemesis, and addiction to Liftupz.
If any American pharma company could use a copy writer, I’m available.