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To Your Health

Television Marketing

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04/01/2009 - Television Marketing

This month's topic is dealing with one of my favorite forms of media to pick on - the TV and its dancing partner, corporate advertising. We will discuss two examples that will make you think.

My first example is regarding drug company commercials on TV. I'm sure many of you have seen commercials in which they advertise that if you have a certain problem contact your doctor and ask him about this drug. Then they quickly go through the side effects. In an article published by the Public Library of Science. Medicine. entitled "What are the public health effects of direct to consumer drug advertising?" There was an interesting article discussing the struggle of the two countries that allow this -- the United States and New Zealand. (New Zealand is apparently banning this practice). By allowing this type of advertising (called "DCDA") of prescribed medications, the companies maintain that informing the public about available treatments stimulates appropriate use of drugs for high priority illnesses (such as statin use in people with heart disease). Critics argue that this information is often (key word "often") biased and misleading and this raises the cost without (their words, not mine) net evidence of health benefits. There is no conclusion in this article, just arguments pointed out by both sides. You are to draw your own conclusions.

Now lets see if we can analyze these arguments using a commercial I found funny and slightly ridiculous. The commercial shows some guys sitting at a baseball game and some of their friends are missing some of the action because they are stuck in the bathroom because of "BPH", which is Benign Prostate Hypertrophy, the medical condition the drug being marketed is used to treat. What's funny is that they show the guys drinking beer which increases your body's desire to urinate more and they are eating hot dogs and who knows what else which can be very inflammatory to the body and probably aggravates the condition of the prostate (details not warranted here). So the message I got was don't deal with the cause; continue current life style; take the medication and deal with the possibility or probability of a side effect and give us your money because you will need this drug for a long time. Interesting, huh.

Next example - How corporations target young children. In an article in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine entitled "Effect of Fast Food Branding on Young Children's Taste Preferences", the researchers objective was to "examine the effect of cumulative, real world marketing and brand exposures on young children by testing the influence of branding from a heavily marketed source on taste preferences". They used 63 children ages 3.5 to 5.4 years of age, from low income preschools. The researchers used five identical food and beverage items from McDonald's and packaged one in McDonald's packaging and the other four in blank packaging. They then asked the children which one tasted better. Results: the children preferred the tastes of food and drinks if they thought they came from McDonald's. Conclusion: Branding of foods and beverages does influence young children's taste perceptions. The author's commented that children with more television sets in their homes and children who ate food at McDonald's more often were more likely to prefer the taste of the food and drink packaged in McDonald's wrapping. They also noted that the children in the survey ate at McDonald's on average twice a week. (WOW!) Now here's the kicker. They took five carrots, wrapped one in a McDonald's wrapper and the rest in blank wrappers. Guess what they liked. You guessed it -- the taste of the McDonald's carrot! Can you see the corporate possibilities? Selling McDonald's produce? "Jimmy which broccoli should we get, McDonald's or Clarence Birdseye?" Are we in trouble or what? Yes, there have been attempts to ban this type of advertising, too. Good luck with that. Well got to go, see ya!

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