Commercial Break: Multivitamins Will Make You Buff and Healthy (Unless You Sue, Then We Said No Such Thing)   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 23 October 2012
Program: Out Front with Erin Burnett
Channel: CNN
Conglomerate: Time Warner

Advertiser: One A Day
Owned By: Bayer
Pitch: Take our worthless vitamin pill to get into awesome shape you flabby, middle aged tub of guts.

The existence and promotion of multi-vitamins is one of those things that really exposes how woefully incomplete medical science’s understanding of much of human biology really is and how that incompleteness can be exploited to make a buck or two (billion).  Vitamin supplements may or may not actually do any specific individual any good, but it’s very hard to know whether or not you (yes, you!) might benefit from a little more of this or that circulating through your system.

However, since they are vitamins and not medicine, and there isn’t much evidence that taking them will seriously harm you, big drug companies create pills that they can sell directly to the hypochondriac public with plausible deniability about whether or not their customers will ever see any actual benefit from taking them.  Having no sense of shame or proportion, they’ve proceeded to create a general impression that taking a “supplement” or something similar is a good idea.  This commercial nicely encapsulates (sorry) that entire latticework of fear, hope, bullshit and (maybe) better health in a nice, tidy fifteen seconds.

The ad begins with these blue spheres:

Blue Balls!

These Romney campaign ads are getting really abstract.

This being a very short ad, you aren’t given time to contemplate just what these things might be before the strong male narrator comes on:

Research suggests cell health plays a key role throughout our lives.

Those are supposed to be cells?  Get the fuck out of here.  But yes, they are, because they quickly come together T-1000 style:

Liquid Man

Excuse me, are you the legal guardian of John Connor?

Not only were those “cells” part of a guy, they were part of the fittest fifty-year old ever to take a gorgeously lit, probably photoshop assisted dive into a pool:

Ladies . . .

He’s never forgiven Carter for boycotting the 1980 Olympics, that 200-Fly medal was his to lose!

As the man-god dives into his pool, the narrator continues:

One A Day Men’s Fifty Plus is a complete multivitamin designed for men’s health concerns as we age.

This is the really shrewd part.  Look how much emotion and bullshit they can pack into just a few words:

  • There is no definition whatsoever of what could possibly make a multivitamin “complete”, they just called it that because it implies that if you take this you can be confident that you’re doing right by yourself.
  • “men’s health concerns” is a similarly all encompassing term that nevertheless sounds medicine-y.  It could be anything from that occasional soreness in your leg to getting tired a bit easier than previous.  If you’ve got some nagging problem bothering you, and very few middle aged men don’t have at least one, then that statement applies to you.
  • “as we age” not only makes the statement sound friendlier, it’s also just as perfectly non-specific as “men’s health concerns”.  All “as we age” means is that you’re a day older today than you were yesterday.  It applies to everyone without actually saying anything informative or useful. 

Of course, this is a television commercial, so there’s plenty going on beyond the narration.  Check out swimmer man:

Gentlemen . . .

Chest, check.  Neck, check.  Shoulders, check-mate.  We are at full buffness, sir.

That man looks like a Greek statue, and he’s being super healthy by swimming, and he takes that “complete” multivitamin, which the big text helpfully informs you “Supports heart and eye health”.  Meanwhile the small text you don’t have time to read has the standard legal disclaimer that Bayer doesn’t know if the big text is actually true: “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration”.  Screw that, amirite?  Look at that dude, I’ll bet he gets all the ladies down at the rotary club and I’ve never seen someone with such spectacular “eye health”.

From there we zoom out so that we can see all the things they’ve packed into this one remarkably “complete” pill:

I Am Health Man!

It’s rich in proteans and electromagnetic juices!

As we see this impressive list of stuff, the narrator finishes his pitch:

It has more of seven anti-oxidants to support cell health.

You may note that “more of” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense there since he isn’t comparing it to anything.  That’s why “Compared to previous formula” appears in that tiny type at the bottom along with a second rendition of the standard “not been evaluated” statement, because “support cell health” is another health claim that isn’t to be legally understood as a health claim.

That, in a nutshell, is the multivitamin scam: make bold claims about what it maybe, might could do, and then instantly disclaim those statements in a way you’re unlikely to notice.  All the while, of course, you’re being shown a paragon of fitness, health and senior sexiness being as fit, healthy and senior sexy as you’d sure like to be.  You might not get to swimming in that empty pool every day like he presumably does, but you can take that little pill.

Posted October 26, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

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