One of the most innovative trends in print advertising is medicine advertisement. The content of these particular advertisements (ads) are intriguing to me. I intend to analyze five medicinal ads to find the tools used by advertisers and to explore the positive and negative aspects of advertising medicine through print ads for the public.
The people who develop ads to market prescription medicine products must have an inkling of what the reader wants to see. For instance, the ads in a parenting magazine most often target mothers. The ads in a sports magazine predominately target athletes. How do the advertisers know what the reader will respond to?
Patterns are tools that help us to narrow our thinking down and put thoughts into categories that we identify with. Patterns allow us to store information in blocks so that we do not have to relearn information that has already been learned. Some patterns are universal and most people have some categories or patterns that other people have. An example of a universal human pattern is using language to communicate. Other patterns that we have, may be derived from our own experience and unlike those of others. Patterns are useful in advertising because advertisers can target their reader by tapping into specific categories.
Perception is a person’s understanding of the information they receive. Depending on their experience or their understanding they will categorize their perception and in turn it will become a thought pattern. For instance when a person talks to a priest their perception of him may be that he is perfect or does not sin. They may categorize all priests this way and not judge them in the way that they would any person who is not a priest. I feel that patterns and perception work hand in hand. Sometimes patterns are formed based on perception, sometimes perception is based on a pattern. What came first the chicken or the egg? I’m not quite sure, but I do know they affect each other. Ads are designed by using patterns that target a specific audience. The reader’s perception of the product may form exclusively based on the ad.
The patterns that I noticed specifically amongst the five medicine ads that I’ve chosen to analyze is the break through effect. In one ad there was a woman with her child and they were breaking through glass. Another ad featured a woman and her child with clear blue skies breaking through the clouds above. The third ad has a man skiing through a mountain of wild flowers.
The thought of breaking through something with a smile is somewhat encouraging and enticing. Thus a reader might perceive this medicine as exciting so they may ask their doctor for this kind rather than another kind that has been useful to them in the past. The thought of carelessly skiing over wildflowers is also exciting and visually euphoric.
The coloring used in the ads is captivating. One ad has a sunset with the colors creating a relaxed feeling. Brown is seems to set a pattern as an offset color in four of the five ads. “Sky” blue is also used, it looks uplifting and freeing.
Another pattern that I noticed is the use of perfect children in the ads. These children do not have a hair out of place or a speck of dirt on their clothing. Both the mothers and the children in the ads are smiling and seemingly relaxed. In other words a person’s perception of the product could be that taking this medicine would create clean, relaxing family harmony. The ads also suggest calling a toll free number to receive a coupon or rebate
check upon purchase of their product. This is a wonderful way to get the reader’s attention, as most people respond to price reductions whether they know the product or not.
There is also a pattern of listing how many times a day the medicine needs to be administered. These ads make reference to the difference in dosage between other medicines as compared to theirs. They focus on the convenience of taking the medicine.
All five of my ads list the possible side effects and teratogens as well as harmful drug interactions on the backside of the ad in fine print. This information definitely does not grab the reader’s attention as the picture on the front does. The advertisers most likely assume that the picture alone will sell their product. Some of the ads do list possible side effects on the front of the ad in small print as well.
It is clear to me that the advertisers have a perception of how the patterns will influence the reader. The reader’s perception of the medicine is based purely on what the eye can see. They can’t feel, taste, smell or sample the medicine from looking at an advertisement. Therefore their perception of the ad has absolutely nothing to do with the actual product and its effectiveness or ineffectiveness.
Prescription medicine is not something that should be chosen spontaneously or without researching the product. Often times the medicine can be prescribed by a doctor based solely on the patient’s request. The patient most likely does not know enough about the medicine if they are requesting it based on the advertisement.
It is unfortunate that advertisers go to such lengths to sell products. It is equally unfortunate that people respond to the advertisements based on a picture or a feeling that they get because of the presentation. The reason that I feel that it’s unfortunate is because prescription drugs can be very harmful if not taken seriously and with caution. If a product cannot be sold in a store, by mail, or in a catalog without a doctor’s prescription does it
belong as an advertisement in a magazine? I assume this is a somewhat controversial issue between pharmaceutical companies and doctor’s who are uncomfortable with overexposing medicines by using catch phrases or visual stimulus. It undermines the importance of a doctor’s role in diagnosing and treating individuals.
The positive aspects of advertising medicine in magazines are beneficial to the pharmaceutical companies especially. They create allure to their product by using patterns to interest the reader and therefore the reader is more likely to request their medicine as a result. This benefits the sales and notoriety of the product. The one positive way that this form of advertising can benefit the reader is if they have an existing problem and they don’t know there’s a treatment for it. It could open a door for the reader to contact their doctor about it.
It is apparent to me that the advertisers use many patterns based on their perception and what they assume will be the perception of the reader. The advertisers must have enough information on what specific patterns the reader will respond to because they do a good job of capturing the reader’s attention. Despite my opposition of advertising medicine this way, it is interesting to have discovered the tools used in doing so.