How Drug Companies Mold DTC Commercials

In his article, Dumit discusses a DTC commercial aimed at women for the osteoporosis-prevention drug Fosamax, in which women are encouraged to perceive themselves first in a positive manner as ‘healthy, active, successful and empowered’, and therefore at risk of osteoporosis and potentially requiring a bone density test. Any woman who views this commercial and perceives herself in such a positive light will therefore conclude that she should undertake a bone density test, to determine whether or not she is at risk for osteoporosis (and if she is, then the commercial suggests that she encourage her doctor to prescribe Fosamax for her). Dumit summarizes this process by claiming that a female viewer’s identification with the kind of woman portrayed in the commercial equates with her identification with the risk for osteoporosis. Given that this commercial appears to be primarily designed with those women in mind who view themselves in the aforementioned positive manner, the question now arises of whether or not such a commercial will be similarly effective for women who fail to perceive themselves in this way. A commercial of this sort seems to function conditionally, in that ideally, for any female viewer of the commercial, if she perceives herself as the commercial portrays, then she will decide to have a bone density test to determine whether she is at risk for osteoporosis, and therefore whether she should take the Fosamax drug. However, this seemingly correct way of portraying how the commercial functions does not demonstrate how it would function for female viewers who do not view themselves in the positive light displayed in the commercial. Would female viewers who perceived themselves in an unhealthy and negative manner be also influenced by the commercial to undertake a bone density test? Or would such a commercial be ineffective for these viewers? These considerations raise the question of how drug companies should mold DTC commercials for drugs in order to reach and influence the widest audience possible.

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