Don’t read this article if you’re allergic to stupidity


I almost fell off my chair when I heard it the first time. Because, after all, there was no way the announcer in the advertisement actually said what I heard.

Let’s say the product was called Boom Boom Diddly Doo. Here’s what I thought I heard during that commercial for this new wonder drug…

Don’t take Boom Boom Diddly Doo if you’re allergic to Boom Boom Diddly Doo

Then… I heard it again… a few times actually, as part of a commercial that is still airing as I write this, and it most certainly offered that disclaimer exactly the way I heard it the first time…

Don’t take Boom Boom Diddly Doo if you’re allergic to Boom Boom Diddly Doo

This disturbs me… and likely should disturb all of us… for a few reasons.

In the commercial’s defense, there are side effects to medications. (And lots of people looking to bring companies to court.) Disclaimers are there, all the time.

There are basically two scenarios for those falling into the side effect suffer group if they intend to take the medication. First -- You have no clue that side effects will become troublesome for you, and won’t know this until after you take the medication. Second -- You do know that you will fall victim to side effects, but the benefits of the medication outweigh the cons of whatever you may encounter.

So… you get it… either you don’t know there is going to be a problem, or, the problem is less bothersome than the larger issue you are trying to address.

Unfortunately, this particular disclaimer means the bar is being raised to a brand new level. See, it’s outright telling you not to take Boom Boom Diddly Doo if you are allergic to it. (Hey, you might want to take it anyway… but please don’t!)

And that’s scary. It’s not saying there might be side effects. It’s saying if you know you’re allergic, stay away.

Thing is…

Years ago, Saturday Night Live delivered a simply outstanding commercial parody for a product called Happy Fun Ball. (Look it up… you’ll find a few places where you can view the commercial, read the transcript, and learn details about the effort.) In this piece, there is a great moment where a simple warning is offered. As opposed to other sections where longer dialogue is offered or details shared, it is simple, direct, and attention grabbing by being just a step off beat in the way it pauses everything…

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

Right there, in the middle of explanations of storing the toy properly or what goes inside of one, a simple, short, warning, without expansion and just enough of a pause before and after to build dramatic impact then allow you to accept and consider the implications of the statement.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball

It raises questions, offers no answers, and just simply is there, stunning you with the notion and thought: “Who would taunt Happy Fun Ball?”

Which brings us back to:

Don’t take Boom Boom Diddly Doo if you’re allergic to Boom Boom Diddly Doo

Why on earth is this warning provided? Would it really hold up in court if someone ignored it, knowingly allergic to Boom Boom Diddly Doo, and took the medication? Does it really need to be said?

I’ve laughed over the years as commercials for drugs have become more and more frequent, and also a bit more… shall we say… considered in their design and content. After all… if we go to our doctor, either for an annual visit or to discuss a specific issue, and we get into details about a subject… should it be me that asks the doctor if particular-drug-unnamed is for me? Wouldn’t it benefit me more to see a physician that, when presented with a medical condition that apparently needs treatment, has an option or two to offer without my research?

(Pause here for a moment. Yeah… there is an outside chance that a doctor has been provided or been contacted by certain pharmaceutical companies. And maybe that doctor has some, albeit completely legal and above board, reason for preferring one drug over another. So sure… my being pitched the medication as a potential patient by a commercial could be drawn in a similar light as the doctor being pitched a medication as a potential prescriber by a drug rep. I get the premise of this. I reject the idea with regard to this essay.)

The thing is… even if I do walk into a doctor’s office with information and research and knowledge and suggestions… the idea that a commercial would recommend it kind of speaks volumes about where we stand as a mass consuming populous. Personally, I’m not totally convinced that a commercial for a product is really the definitive source of material I should be using to decide what medication to use. It’s one step short of the company that manufactures the drug having the president or chairman of the board appear at the end so they can tell us they approved the message.

We have a tendency to make fun of these things. (Just pull up the old search engine of choice and look it up -- stupid product warning labels… dumb product disclaimers -- and you’ll find some wonderful examples. Some of my personal favorites are the warnings in the instructions to only use the product according to the instructions, which of course… if you didn’t read the instructions… well… I hope I’m preaching to the choir.) But it would certainly appear that we as consumers have asked for it.

We’ve shown that we’ll listen, investigate the medication, and possibly even purchase it. So the commercials continue. And, we’ve shown that we’ll avoid responsibility and look for any reason to blame someone else when it backfires (and pocket a dollar). To paraphrase Men in Black -- a person is smart, people are idiots.

There’s an old joke… classic joke… where a patient tells a doctor it hurts while doing something, and the doctor’s response is simply “then don’t” do it. Unfortunately, it seems like we’ve moved on as a society, and the concept that experience is the best teacher now needs to carry a disclaimer.

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