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Has DTC advertising gone too far?

by Jeffrey Clark on February 9, 2011

I remember  years ago when I saw my first Claritin commercial.  Was pretty interesting, an ad for a drug.  I’ve also become immune to the regular onslaught of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction ads that interrupt any NFL or golf-related event on Sunday afternoons.  Actually, I recall much more shock and awe when I saw the first ever commercial for a piece of medical equipment.  It was a big, shiny new GE imaging system.  I recall wondering who was supposed to buy it?  Did GE really believe they could reach hospital administrators through prime time television ads?

Another landmark was Smith & Nephew’s commercials for knee and hip implants under the tagline ‘Rediscover your go.’   It was riveting, clever and revolutionary as I could not recall another Class III implantable device being marketed through a TV commercial.

But last night takes the cake.  During a non-descript episode of World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer, one stretch saw six consecutive ads for healthcare -related products, including (in order) Smith & Nephew’s ad, Plavix, Beyaz, Omnaris, Atelvia and dentures.  Now, I get it….these ads work and the target audience (>50) are the only ones still watching the nightly news during dinnertime.  But still, haven’t we gone overboard when Diane Sawyer’s discussion with Donald Rumsfeld is complemented by commercials that read like his chart  at the VA clinic?

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