Medical Claims My Eye (My Life in Advertising: Chapter 7)

I am blown away at the number of medical commercials on TV these days (in the US). They’re a huge portion of the evening broadcast. You can’t watch network television without being warned of ED.

What's the TV suggest today? Photo "Television" by dailyinvention, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
What’s the TV suggest today? Visual Messages play a large part in our receptiveness to an advert. Photo “Television” by dailyinvention, Flickr, CC-By-2.0

Did you know that advertising pharmaceuticals directly to consumers is the most common way people receive health communications? It’s true. No one is suggesting the viewers get off their asses to exercise. There’s no money in advertising the health benefits of zucchini — unless you’re the Food Network!

No one wants to hear the bad news of health issues. Instead, we’re fed commercials of attractive actors frolicking in a meadow. The visual message is Happiness, even as the voice-over suggests the medicine might cause exactly what it’s trying to prevent. Everyone is interested in a sunnier life.

Apparently, these ads are an improvement from what was published 100 years ago. In Chapter Seven of #PRL’s current selection, the fascinating My Life in Advertising, Claude C Hopkins writes about Medical Advertising. In his day, the early 1910s and 1920s, Medical Advertising was considered the Wild West. Medical claims in advertisements just weren’t questioned at all.

The “medicines” on the market at that time were tonics to treat symptoms, not to cure the sickness. Think “snake oil” from a traveling circus — it’s questionable if the medicines worked at all! There was little regulation in the industry. Hopkins says that all the great advertisers of his day sharpened their skills writing medical advertising. The most important metric in advertising has never been truth, but if the ad sold the product.

In his own medical advertising, Hopkins continues his Service theme. For example, Hopkins offers to buy the first bottle of his own Liquozone product for a customer. If someone is taking a chance and buying something for you, the customer… well then, the product must be good!

Liquozone was Hopkins' own medicine company after he and investors really spent $100,000 to buy the product rights for the US market.
Liquozone was Hopkins’ own medicine company after he and investors really spent $100,000 to buy the product rights for the US market.

In other ad campaigns, Hopkins offers a guarantee for a relief of symptoms when a customer buys five bottles of his medicine. No one buys that many bottles at once, of course, but the looming guarantee is persuasive.

Hopkins works with local druggists to sign a certificate in front of the customer, lending an air of authority and credibility to the medicine and guarantee.

With these approaches, Hopkins’ ads outsell all other brands and they take over the market.

Hopkins also devises a scheme for customers to receive cheaper items after signing up a friend to a club. That friend, of course, can fill his own coupon book when signing up more friends. The company’s customer base grows quickly, and Hopkins learns how the satisfied customers of today can influence the profits of tomorrow through word-of-mouth advertising.

In advertising and persuasion, Hopkins reminds us of the importance to talk to a single customer, not to people in the mass. Individuals buy your products, so write to an individual. Tweet This

Hopkins discusses the importance of details, of telling the complete story of your product, including the pains you go through to make your product. “Tell factors and features which others deem too commonplace to claim, ” Hopkins says. Tweet This He uses this strategy this time and again, telling the details which a manufacturer would find boring but a customer has no idea about.

Personally, writing to an individual is something I’m always working to improve. I’ve rewritten this post, and others, a dozen times trying to get through to you. Maybe this visual will help:

Look, we're frolicking in a field! Photo "RUN!!!" by Ingo Smeritschnig, Flickr, CC-By-2.0
Look, we’re frolicking in a field! Everything will be OK. Photo “RUN!!!” by Ingo Smeritschnig, Flickr, CC-By-2.0