August 1997
s m u g
target audience
by Leslie Harpold


...And then You Die


Disturbing isn't it? There's been so much in the media about Prozac both good and bad, but still, it continues to assert it's position as the number one growth drug available by prescription. That means that more people are taking Prozac every day.

I realize that some people have problems, chemical imbalances, serotonin deficiencies that make them lack the regular range and scope of human emotion. I don't begrudge them wanting to find a way out. What bugs me though, is this ad, and it bugs me plenty, so excuse me if I kick it Ed Anger style for a minute here.


Yeah, I'm depressed. I'm depressed that there are thousands and thousands of people who will view this ad and think that Prozac will make them feel better - whether or not there's anything physically wrong with them.

Depression isn't just feeling's a real illness with real causes...

It's not your fault your life sucks.

Depression can be triggered by stressful life events, like divorce or a death in the family. Or it can appear suddenly for no apparent reason.

Ever get that not so fresh feeling? Get dumped? General malaise?

Some people think you can just will yourself out of a depression, that's not true....

You'll need to give us some money before that depressed feeling goes away. Oh, and it's not your fault, you poor thing.

So you may have trouble sleeping. Feel unusually sad or irritable. Find it hard to concentrate. Lose your appetite. Lack energy.

Just in case your attention span is lacking, we kept the sentences short. Really short. Really. Are you feeling sleepy, dopey, grumpy, mopey, listless, cranky or shot? (That being a kind of a "seven dwarves" of emotions for the new generation.) Prozac will make you tall and vital again.

Or have trouble feeling pleasure.

Last time I had trouble feeling pleasure I changed boyfriends, and let me tell you it worked wonders.

...Prozac isn't a "happy pill."

Then why are they advertising it as such. The first visual take on the whooping two page ad is that if things are dark and gloomy, a little Prozac will cheer you right up - change your internal weather from dark to light, night to day and give you a whole new leash on life. This ad doesn't speak to the truly chemically depressed, and they're kidding us if they try to tell us that. This ad has been in Newsweek, Time, People, and fashion magazines, not medical magazines for doctors who have patients with problems, but national consumer publications - so anyone who sees this and thinks "hmm, I'm not as sunny and cheerful as I'd like to be, and I'm still feeling a little bummed about the breakup/parking ticket/change of 'large collection day' from Thursday to Saturday," is going to think, is supposed to think "maybe some Prozac will change all that."

It won't. As a matter of fact, one of the dangers of the drug is that it has shown to have little effect on people who don't have a serotonin imbalance. That means that there are plenty of people pestering their family physician for Prozac, getting it and psyching themselves back to feeling better. Or wondering why the hell they don't.

On the second page of the ad, they stress the drug is not a cure all, and list the vast side effects, which include, I might add, some of the symptoms that would indicate it's prescription like sleeplessness.

I know people who are ready at any time to do infomercials for Prozac. One girl, because she finally lost that last 15 pounds, although when pressed she admits she doesn't feel any less depressed than before. Another because he now feels like he has something in common with all the neurotic freaks at his work place. He tells me they all go out to lunch and talk about Prozac once a week. If it takes faking mental illness and daily ingestion of a drug you don't need to make friends in today's world, I think I missed a meeting. Developing an interest or reading the paper seems like a much more logical and frankly, less expensive choice.

They tell you in the text it won't take away all your problems, but the visual language contradicts that, and most people don't really read the fine print. I say this ad is dangerous. A beautiful execution of capitalism, but still as exploitive as any spread eagled supermodel sprawled across the roof of a minivan could be. Clearly, the Lilly people are trying to tell you that the sun rises and sets only for those who take Prozac, and see, the logo says that too.


And their tag line "Welcome back." Like the theme song from "Welcome Back Kotter" where your dreams were your ticket out. Only when you take Prozac, you might not have any dreams anymore. Welcome back to what?



in the junk drawer:

July 1997
June 1997
May 1997
April 1997
March 1997
February 1997
January 1997

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