Article Date: 2/1/2004

lessons learned
Truth in Advertising
Imagine a drug commercial in which the manufacturer told it like it was.
By Jack Runniger, O.D.

 I'm thankful that consumer advertising for eyecare-related products hasn't sunk to the depths of some that we see.

"Ask your doctor if Euphorium is right for you," says the man on the TV commercial.

"I'm going to ask him right now!" says some idiot in response.

There the ad ends.

What we need are new Truth in Advertising laws that mandate that such advertisements continue in order to tell what happens next.


Ask your doctor!

Then we would be able to watch this gullible idiot rush to the phone and call his physician. He gets a recorded message that says, "If you'd like to make an appointment, press one. If you'd like to change your appointment, press two. If you're not sure if you want an appointment, press three. If you might want to make an appointment in the future, press four . . ."

He eventually gets to the message, "If you need to talk to the doctor's nurse, press 36." So he presses 36 -- and gets another recorded message that says, "The nurse is busy. Leave your phone number and she'll call you back if she can find the time."

Fortunately, he recalls that instead of punching all those numbers, he can punch zero to get a real live person on the other end of the phone. (Who said this column wasn't educational?)

"How may I help you?" the voice he reaches politely asks.

"I want to talk to the doctor," he says.

"What do you need to talk to him about?"

"I need to ask him if Euphorium is right for me."

"He's with another patient and can't come to the phone."

"But the man on TV said it's important that I ask him right away."

"What kind of problem are you having?"

"I can't throw a football through a swinging tire."

Supply the whole truth

The law should also require drug manufacturers to tell the entire truth about the drugs they advertise. Thus, a typical ad would go something like the following:

"Ask your doctor if the orange pill Obnoxium is right for you. We have made a slight change in the previous formula and in the color of the tablet to make it look like something entirely new. Frankly, it's no different in effect than its predecessor.

"However, this change became necessary when our patents expired on the previous pill, so that we could no longer charge exorbitant prices for it. We have to charge these high prices to further drug research. Without our crack research team, we never could've come up with this scheme to continue charging outlandish prices."

They've got a knack

On second thought, requiring drug companies to meet these new standards probably wouldn't do a bit of good. They're expert at making even bad effects seem desirable.

"Common side effects of this medication include loss of bladder control, vomiting, losing all your teeth, becoming cross eyed, and paralysis of your right arm and left leg," says the announcer. But he says it in such an offhand, cheerful, positive tone of voice that it sounds as if these are further benefits.

"Before taking this medication," he continues, "be sure to tell your doctor if you have kidney or heart disease."

If your doctor doesn't remember whether you have kidney or heart disease without being told, then you'd better get a new doctor!

Jack Runniger, our consulting editor, lives in Rome, GA.  He's also a past editor of OM.

Optometric Management, Issue: February 2004