Monday, December 05, 2005

Think Before You Pink


The other night while watching tv, I decided to count the number of shady health-related messages perpertrated by television Ads. All the pharmaceutical ones, the trendy 4-periods-a-year thing, and of course the Ads for various diseases and their cures if only we would buy more.

I counted 5, then forgot I was doing it. So somewhere between 5 and 5000.

The idea of marketing goods and services is such a core part of our daily exsistence that it's amusing to detach it on occasion and examine it as you might an oddball potatoe. Breast cancer, for example, is easily one of the best marketed diseases out there. Who doesn't know what a pink ribbon is? Buy estee lauder, drive a BMW and eat yogurt...all while supporting the cure for breast cancer. Capitalism is very impressive at turning a complicated, often intangible concept into a sellable, accessible product that can enter into the marketplace. If you are able to buy your way to a larger cause, and you associate this good feeling with a product...it's pure advertisement gold. It sells this idea that activism and social justice can be achieved easily by simply doing the things that we would normally do anyway...which is eat yogurt and put on make-up.

There is little doubt that advertisements are overwhelmingly targeted to women in our culture, and furthermore that there are some very rigid gender assumptions that the world of advertisements and television bases everything on. And one of its core assumptions is that men don't buy things unless they absolutely need it, while women are frivolous shoppers who go around spending money all over town. In this context, it seems perfectly reasonable that buying lipstick--a frivolous act--can redeem itself by having some social value. However, it is never true that buying a power drill--an ostentiously male product--could alleviate testicular cancer. You buy a power drill because you need it. Despite the fact, that one often buys a power drill even when you don't need it. In fact, I can't think of any products that target men, that also have some sort of cause hanging onto its coat-tails.

I wish I had thought it up...there's a campaign called Think Before You Pink...that has some pretty interesting information and tips when buying that pink-colored cookie that will help a breast cancer victim in montana live to see her teenage daughter graduate high school.

3 Comments:

Blogger Andy's Life in India said...

Darling you are so behind the times. HIV/AIDS is the original disease, turned cuase, turned industry! Everything else pales in comparison.

6:05 PM  
Blogger SuperKat said...

Oh wow, you hit a nerve here! Breast cancer has one of the highest cancer survival rates and also gets a huge chunk of research funding (OK, the research dork looked up the numbers: $693 million was spent on breast cancer research in 2003, compared with $295 for colo-rectal cancer and $296 on lung cancer). I think these two facts might be related: because of the high survival rate, breast cancer survivors are around to rally for the cause and to lobby for more funding. I wonder, too, if it has something to do with the fact that it is a "woman's disease" and marketing to women for such causes is easier than to men, or even to the population in total.

1:26 AM  
Blogger Sony Pony said...

hmm..how could I forget HIV? Actually, I don't know..HIV-turned-cause-turned-industry might be the oldest, pioneering phenomena...But I would argue that it isn't attached to nearly as many products as breast cancer (just of the top of my head..yogurt, cookies, makeup, bracelets, necklaces,cars, anything pink)...

I like the breast cancer survivors turned ralliers idea..hmm..you could literally write a book on this! Anyone interested?:)

5:33 AM  

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