It’s not a new phenomenon — when baby boomers were kids, lots of TV commercials targeted old people. But now (cover your eyes if you don’t want to read a little bad news), we are the old people. And yes, while the technical quality of commercials has changed, their basic intent has not. That’s what Montreal baby boomer Wendy Reichental looks at now: the positive side effects of TV ads.
I was watching CBS News Sunday Morning hosted by Jane Pauley — it’s like a 60 Minutes-lite — when I noticed a curious phenomenon. All the commercials, with few exceptions, were about some form of an over-the-counter or prescription drug.
Of course this is nothing new. We have been subjected to this since the early days of TV when aging gruff actors suffering from nothing more than a bad case of indigestion told us to buy Alka-Seltzer. Us boomers certainly remember the ear-worm jingle “Plop plop, fizz fizz, oh what a relief it is.”
Television has continued to advertise various tablets, creams, serums, and ointments for whatever ails us. But perhaps it is refreshing that what has evolved — aside from the sophistication of these readily available newer wonder drugs — is that the actors portrayed in these ads are noticeably younger, ecstatically active, and so encouragingly vibrant!
While these seemingly medicated people are plagued with conditions ranging from severe psoriasis, migraines, diabetes, blood clots, shingles, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, relentless metastatic breast cancer, and an avalanche of others, one thing stands out: none of the actors in these commercials appears even remotely hindered by his or her assigned diseases or viruses. In fact, while undergoing their treatments, the majority find themselves still able to volunteer their time with Habitat for Humanity.
Those less energetic are seen pushing stubborn wheelbarrows and tending to their herbal gardens. The ones with joint pain are completing their triathlons and graciously accepting their Olympic medals! Shingles sufferers are no slackers either, not letting open secreting sores stop them from giving that all-important budget presentation. The ones who are getting the short end of the stick in comparison are the living-with-bipolar-and-depression group, as they are depicted as only able to get in a morning jog before putting in a full day at work, and later in the evening preparing an elaborate dinner for family and friends until the commercial ends with them finally taking in a meditative sunset.
Then there are ads for lesser known diseases like pseudobulbar affect (PBA), a disorder that I immediately diagnosed myself with after watching the commercial. It is a neurologic brain disorder characterized predominately by episodes of uncontrollable crying and/or laughing. I’m pretty certain that I was once escorted out of my poor ten-year-old niece’s first piano recital because I got struck with an attack of the worst convulsive giggles, something I am unfortunately prone to whenever a room grows seriously quiet or somber.
This onslaught of drug commercials and the buffet of various diseases and disorders we are repeatedly exposed to has not only been effective in expanding our knowledge of pharmaceutical options but has also perhaps heightened our pre-existing anxieties.
Woody Allen once said, “No one gets of this world alive!” Aside from stating the obvious, the reality is that something is going to afflict us at some point in our hopefully long lives. I cannot imagine what it is like to go through any of the adversities seen on these commercials but they do remind me daily to be grateful for the health I have, while applauding all those who in the real world face their challenges head-on with grace, dignity, and tenacity. They are the true non-acting heroes, demonstrating daily that it can be achieved and overcome.
The one common denominator that all these drug and disease-related commercials seem to convey— aside from the fact that the side effects from everything might kill you— is that nothing should stop you from living your best healthy life and doing what brings you happiness. Maybe we could all benefit from being reminded once in awhile not to wait for a tragic diagnosis to make a positive change and attack that bucket list.
No ad necessary for this easy pill to swallow.