Advertising and colds

How Lemsip and Beechams sell cold treatments on the telly - and a contrast with the more sobre advice on their websites.
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

While my body is clearly back in the UK portions of my brain are still scattered in various time zones between here and New Zealand. It’s been weird coming back to London after more than 6 weeks straight from nearly-the-longest-day to nearly-the-shortest.

Somewhere in this confusion, I found myself astonished by UK cold treatment advertising. (Strange things grab my attention in my current state).

In New Zealand, my Brit friends and I would chuckle at the gaucheness of the lcoal TV advertising. But at least most of it was straightforward, even if it lacked the so-called creative flair that allegedly makes British ads superior.

But I wonder what a price we pay for this kind of sophistication? Yes, that’s sophistication, from the same lexicographers that gave you sophistry.

Exhibit A: TV ad for Lemsip Max Strength (Clip at DavidReviews). Synopsis: Woman at office worries that male colleage is too ill with the flu to complete some profoundly important project. Male reveals that his use of Lemsip has transformed him from red-nosed death’s-door loiterer into suave executive. He even has time to invite said female colleaugue on a date. She is unable to resist a man who can bounce back so readily from illness. Obviously, this medicine does wonders for the production of pheromones as well as curing the flu.

Exhibit B: Beechams All-in-one. Synopsis: Charicature native tribesman tries a variety of unlikely cold-cures, like putting mustard on his chest. Surprise, surprise, they don’t work. Reasurring male voiceover offers us Beechams All-in-one, which gives the flu “the all-in-one”. The neat thing about that phrase is that it can imply fantastic results but actually not really mean anything.

Both these ads seem to imply through tone and execution that these products are a virtually a cure for colds/flu, which of course they are not.

Now I see that online, Beechams are more circumspect. For example, with beechamsfightback, and the “Cold and Flu Council” sponsored by them. Take a look at the Six Ways to Fight Back. Nary a mention of the product which, on TV, appears to be some kind of miracle cure.

I suppose we could appreciate the integrity of this advice. But the contrast between the multimillion pound ads and this relatively cheap website is telling.

Meanwhile, over at Lemsip the Expert Advice includes (my italics)

Well as you’d expect, we can’t give you an instant cure, but there are some suggestions we can make that might help you get better sooner.

Get plenty of rest

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