Why are medication commercials so vague?

I’ve noticed a trend lately. Sometimes, when they are advertising new medications on TV, they seem to want to make you have to figure out what the medication is actually for.

Example (this is fictional but not unlike the commercials you actually see):

Upbeat banjo/guitar playing in the background
-Family of 4 skips merrily across a green meadow
-Dad lifts laughing child into the air, spins around in slow motion, highlight sun on face
-Other child and mom admire a pretty flower
-Logo and voiceover proclaim, “Once-a-day Subinephemal. Ask your doctor.”

So you’re left completely stumped. There’s not even a clue as to what this stuff is used for. Who’s going to waste time going to their doctor to ask, “Hey, what’s Subinephemal?” just to discover it treats something they don’t even have?

Anyway, I’m wondering why these commercials tend to be so incredibly vague? Is there an actual reason? Or is it just poor advertising?

Short answer: If they say what condition it is supposed to fix, they have to explain all the side effects/drug interactions etc in the ad also. This can easily eat up the 30 sec ad all by itself.


The actual reason is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires that if an advertisement talks about the benefits of a prescription drug, it also has to give the major side effects.

So if the happy family is taking Subinephemal to, let’s say, relieve the symptoms of hay fever and allergies, somewhere the voiceover would have to mention that Subinephemal may cause nose bleeds, asthma attacks and in certain rare cases, expolding skulls.

On the other hand, if you tell your doctor you have hay fever, and he says “Well, there are a couple of new drugs out there, like Naseledrine and Subinephemal,” the pharmacutical company is hoping you’ll say “Oh, Subinephemal! Should I try that?”

Be thankful they can advertise at all…
((((that’s if you think it’s a good thing anyway…)))))

Hey, the doctor never said anything about blam!

You forgot “explosive diarrhea” :smiley:

Not after seeing those lobotomized people in that damned erectile dysfunction drug ad I don’t.

Or “anal leakage”, the other current favorite.


Well, if you (search engine) the name of the drug, Hyferbapskew for example, the official website will give you more information than you could ask for; purpose, who can safely take it, side effects (and how often they happened in tests,) what happens if you take too much, you know, the whole fear sheet. :eek:

Just so. This kind of ad is termed a “reminder” ad. According to the FDA, there are two other types of ads, and all three types are detailed here:

Very Perceptive


Adding to the overall effect of vagueness is the fact that, probably to confort us baby boomers who don’t want to say we’re getting the diseases that only “old” folks get, someone’s apparently decreed that every common disease should have a catchy 2-letter abbreviation. For instance, impotence, high blood pressure, and rheumatoid arthritis, they’re now calling ED, high BP, and RA. I’m sure “HC” for high cholesterol will be along any minute now.