25 July, 2007

Advertising's Cult of Performance Enhancement

So, right now I’m just waiting. And as I sit here, I see that Barry Bonds is just 2 long balls shy of Hank Aaron’s heralded 755 homerun mark. Mr Bonds has got to be one of the most vilified “heroes” of our day. Why? Because the majority of America, including myself, believe he used “performance enhancing drugs.” There it is – the specter of “performance enhancing drugs” turns a hero into a pariah. But upon further review, are we, the common masses, really in any place to judge? Sure, he cheated in the workplace, but as society, how can fault him, when we seem to always be looking for the next lab-created leg up? Have the pharmaceutical companies run amok? Are we improving our lives or have we now become the Cult of Performance Enhancement?

Don’t’ think so? Just look at the advertisements that flood each commercial break during any major sporting event. You can’t help but be barraged with a seemingly endless torrent of pharmaceutical firms selling the latest and greatest affliction. “Do you have Ailment X affecting lifestyle goal Y? How can you be sure? You should be frightened because ailment X is particularly nasty for Group Z? Well, there’s no need to worry because now there’s Zxynoxanol”! Yikes.

As I’m still waiting and have the time, I think from an academic standpoint, it’s important to get some sort of historical perspective- an analytical “how did we get here?”

Well, I place the blame squarely on two brands that laid the foundation for insidious fear-based marketing: Palmolive and Wisk. That’s right, I said it. I’m on to your game Madge. Oh, darn these dishpan hands!? Whatever will I do? Madge to the rescue! “Thank goodness there’s Palmolive, you’re soaking in it!” Oh my you’ve surreptitiously placed my hands in some sort of green goo. Thanks, Madge! Manicurist, my arse. Snake oil salesman more like it.

And Wisk? Now who ever heard of “ring-around-the-collar”? Oh what a social nightmare to be cast from society with such a horrid condition. Well, at least in the modern age, we can all breathe a little easier as this is apparently an affliction that has been cured. Did Unilever, the makers of Wisk, finally rid us of this pestilence? Um, no… it was actually when people decided that maybe we should wash our clothes more than once a month.

Anywho, my favorite new pharmaceutical miracle is Requip and the troubling syndrome it alleviates… dramatic pause… Restless Leg Syndrome or RLS. You know, my wife and I spent three and a half hours in traffic yesterday and her legs felt funny. Does she have RLS? Do I? Sometimes when I’m lying in bed, I have the urge to stretch out my legs. Then, other times I like them curled up? What’s wrong with me? Do I need a doctor? Oh my! So while I’m waiting, I decide I must learn more and in doing my due diligence on Requip.com, I just came across this little gem:

Some patients taking ropinirole (Requip) have shown urges to behave in a way
unusual for them. Examples of this are an unusual urge to gamble or increased
sexual urges and/or behaviors. If you or your family notices that you are
developing any unusual behaviors, talk to your doctor.

Man! Why aren’t they marketing that?! Strange sexual urges and the possibility of getting my wife to ante-up for the World Series of Poker… now that is a miracle drug!

So anyway, back to Barry. Is he a cheat? In my eyes, yes. Did he take “performance enhancing drugs?” In my eyes, yes. Is he entirely to blame? Maybe not. Maybe, he just fell victim to some sort of flyer from Balco warning of the dangers of “Only-Above-Average-Musclitis.” Maybe he’s just another willing sheep in our Cult of Performance Enhancement.

Okay, enough waiting. It’s been four hours… I’m calling my doctor.

For more on side effects of drugs in our society please see:

Or for the Cliff’s Notes: http://youtube.com/watch?v=2nMkpMvvgY4
--Ken Hall, Associate Creative Director

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1 others 'fessed up:

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