Commercial Break: Failing Physics and Biology with Celebrex   1 comment

Broadcast: 18 September 2012
Program: Mythbusters
Channel: Discovery
Conglomerate: Discovery Communications

Advertiser: Celebrex
Owned By: Pfizer
Pitch: Relieve arthritis pain and meet strangers in the woods.

Sometimes, you can tell a commercial isn’t going to go well right from the opening lines.  In this case, we start with a picture of a not all that old looking guy sitting in a car:

Body Is a Nicer Word Than Corpse

Handsome, trim, tastefully gray hair, the only thing wrong with this guy is that he’s pretending to have arthritis. 

As we contemplate his unwrinkled visage, the voiceover begins:

It’s simple physics.  A body at rest tends to stay at rest, while a body in motion tends to stay in motion. 

This is a badly garbled attempt to cram a famous scientific idea that even non-scientists can be counted on to know into advertising-speak.  The problem, of course, is that science isn’t the least bit conducive to the happy fantasy land of a commercial where everything can be okay if you buy our product (but we aren’t allowed to just outright lie like we’d prefer).  So we get something simple and elegant, a body at rest remaining so unless acted on by an outside force, gussied up and losing most of its meaning by being patronized as “simple physics” and watered down with two “tends”.

Once the peppy fake guitar riff and tinkling piano get going, this guy and his equally trim and tastefully aged woman go hiking:

Natural Smiles

C’mon, honey, that clothing catalog photo shoot is just over the hill.  Keep smiling naturally.

As these two wander the woods and the elevator music continues, the voiceover gets to the heart of all prescription drug ads: minimizing side effects.  This little chunk of narration takes up nearly half the commercial:

All prescription NSAIDs like Celebrex, ibuprofen, naproxen, and Meloxicam have the same cardiovascular warning.  They all may increase the chance of heart attack or stroke which can lead to death.  This chance increases if you have heart disease or risk factors such as high blood pressure or when NSAIDs are taken for long periods.  NSAIDs, including Celebrex, increase the chance of serious skin or allergic reactions or stomach and intestine problems such as bleeding and ulcers, which can occur without warning and may cause death.  Patients also taking aspirin and the elderly are at increased risk for stomach bleeding and ulcers.  Do not take Celebrex if you’ve had an asthma attack, hives or other allergies to aspirin, NSAIDs, or sulfonamides.  Get help right away if you have swelling of the face or throat or trouble breathing. 

Whew.  That’s a lot of death, bleeding, and hives.  I’m particularly fond of the part where they said that all of them “have the same cardiovascular warning”, which slides nicely around the fact that having the same warning isn’t the same as having the same risk.  The “No Trespassing” sign in front of an unfenced, empty lot that everyone uses as a shortcut is technically the same warning as the “No Trespassing” sign in front of the Pentagon, but that doesn’t mean it’s equally safe to ignore them. 

Of course, reading all of that horror and gore out loud takes a while, and the commercial can’t just go blank for that time.  So our arthritis pain free couple has to walk around the woods in a way that looks pleasant and easy without getting repetitive.  Among their adventures they see a computer animated bird and meet up with another couple:

Hello Friends

Isn’t this friendly?  Too bad the narration here is talking about dying unexpectedly from bleeding ulcers. 

Sadly, the freeze frames don’t do justice to how stiff and awkwardly these people look while they stand around and don’t speak so the voiceover can finish its litany of side effects.  Well, maybe some of the awkwardness comes across:

Don't Think About Ulcers, Don't Think About Ulcers

Worst Craigslist Casual Encounter Ever. 

Unfortunately, this newfound companionship only lasts like fifteen seconds as the last of the side effects are read and we’re finally told to ask our doctor:

Stay Away from My Wife, Asshole

And a stilted goodbye to you to, sir.  Hope your face swelling goes down and your body tends to remain in motion.

Posted September 24, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

One response to “Commercial Break: Failing Physics and Biology with Celebrex

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  1. Great stuff. Check out the Purdue chicken commercials where they brag about not using hormones while little type at the bottom declares that hormones cannot be used per government regulation.

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