Tuesday, April 28, 2009

If they're so smart, why do they fall for that?

Medical-type-people will claim that the Ambien pen they're using doesn't influence their prescribing habits, but that's a pretty hard claim to believe when your doctor's office is so full of the plastic crap with logos all over it.

When I first got to know the workings of a lab, and had to think about inventories and what kind of microtubes I wanted to use, I was a little horrified at the stupid gimmicks supply and instrumentation companies use to advertise their wares. Naively, I thought, "Psh, we scientists aren't dumb enough to fall for that - we buy based on performance." And then, "If it didn't work, they wouldn't sink so much money into marketing."

The best lesson in the potency of branding I've learned lately is looking up brands of bath products I've long associated with wholesomeness with the Environmental Working Group's database of product safety ratings. The most counterintuitive thing I found was that Neutrogena's body oil with fragrance in it is rated as safer than the fragrance-free type. WTF. I actually like the somewhat patchouli-ish scent of the scented kind and would use it if it didn't make me sneeze all day. Also, a lot of my personal associations between brands and safety or wholesomeness were WAY off. Apparently I'm courting some pretty nasty reproductive cancers with my daily routine. My philosophy on the stuff is that if it's a cleansing product, its very purpose is to wash away, so if the few moments it spends on my skin don't bother me, I'm pretty much in the clear. Anything meant to stick to me, like a moisturizer or makeup or deodorant, I'm a bit pickier about. I tend to figure that if it doesn't bug my sensitive skin, it's pretty inert and boring.

So go ahead and terrify yourself with that search engine. Knock yourself out. It's kind of like the weird masochistic thrill everyone's been getting from the cognitive dissonance their admiration for Susan Boyle provokes in them. We knew we were superficial, but that we were this bad?

For a while in 2008, I was mildly obsessed with finding an eye cream that would reduce the puffiness around my eyes that I think will be a lifelong side-effect of the surgery I had last year. It was a fool's errand, but now I know what not to buy. For my money, nothing actually reduces puffiness except an ice pack, but the creams will make dark circles look better after a while. It was only after spending huge amounts of time scouring the shelves of drugstores that I realized how extensive the product-placement in 30 Rock actually is. I don't care if it's sarcastic - it's still product placement and kind of gross. I did think it was truly funny when Jenna got fat and Liz said of the fat-hatred directed at her, "It's like those Dove commercials never even happened."

In recognition of denying the bill of good we're constantly buying, I wanted to highlight Kevin, MD's take on doctors accepting promotional items but hiding the brands emblazoned on them. I agree that it's plain old corruption to take the perks but pretend to be above them. You hear that, Tina Fey? I'm talking to you - your "joking" product placement is no more dignified than the normal kind.

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