Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Advertising folks are just a bunch of Fish Oil salesmen...

When we look back at advertising of old, we shake our heads and laugh at what companies used to be able to claim before regulation. Back in the day, cigarette companies could say their deadly little sticks could cure a sore throat. This was back before the government made sugary cereal manufacturers put the "part of" in "Cap'n Crunch is part of a balanced breakfast."

These days we wouldn't stand for outrageous claims that beer cures stomach ulcers. Or would we?

I have been seeing a commercial running with a elderly couple dancing. The VO says something like, "Studies show dancing is good for your heart. So is fish oil." The takeaway is that the Omega 3s or whatever in fish oil can slow the effects of aging on your heart. Near the end, though, there's tiny print that says the FDA hasn't substantiated these claims.

Will the FDA ever get around to proving or disproving this? I doubt it. After all, fish oil isn't that new. I mean, fish have been around for, like, years, right?

The argument is that some studies have shown that fish oil has health benefits. Some studies have also shown that drinking sugary soda helps kids get better test scores, which also hasn't been proven by the FDA. I try to imagine the backlash if Coca Cola tried to run a commercial claiming drinking soda was good for kids.

If fish oil has no proven benefits, it should have to sell based on its brand image, just like every other meaningless product. Advertisers should have to make people feel cool for taking fish oil. Fish oil should get a social media campaign, making virtual tribes of fish oil enthusiasts. Dedicate a store in the mall to fish oil, with a bar in it where you could go up and get all your fish oil questions answered (as long as you're a card-carrying fish oil brand advocate).

Am I serious? Not really. But I do think we'll be judged in the future for our laundry lists of pharm side effects and our mouse-type belying all healthful claims made in commercials. I just hope we learn our lesson before we need a Fish Oil Council to reduce oil use in kids.