Like the illnesses they represent, these pharmaceutical “mascots” can make you sick.
Move over, Mickey and Minnie. Step aside Snow White and Cinderella. A new cast of characters are elbowing their way into your magically animated world.
These new guys aren’t frolicking through castles or golden meadows singing peppy songs. A less whimsical group, they carry the heavy burden of common, everyday human ailments.
Like toe fungus infestation. Irritable bowel syndrome. Overflowing mucus or frequent urination. You know. The stuff you don’t discuss in polite company.
In the past 10 years, cartoon characters have become a big part of the marketing of pharmaceuticals. These ads are supposed to prompt patients to ask their doctors about a particular medication. As in, “I’ve got irritable bowel syndrome. What about prescribing that drug I saw on TV?”
The best way to get this conversation going is to create something that sticks in a potential patient’s mind, says a source familiar with the industry and the way pharmaceutical products are marketed. “Market research shows that consumers will remember something absurd,” the source says. “Maybe an absurd little character.” Absurd and often accompanied by lists of dangerous side effects.
What advertisers have come up with are an array of memorable and often strikingly off-putting images that seem to shout, “Don’t go there.” There are soft-hued images of bowels being emptied, shiny surfaces splattered with urine from overactive bladders, tampon-like devices to prevent embarrassing urinary accidents, all commonplace now. But the most memorable are those cartoon pitchmen.
Here are the Five Most Cringe-Inducing Cartoon Characters in Drug Ads:
A disturbing little pink dude who looks like a tangled roll of garden hose, he created a splash at this year’s Super Bowl. His complaint is abdominal pain and diarrhea, and his rescuer – from that alarmingly rumbly sensation in the intestines — is Xifaxan. The Washington Post counted the Xifaxan commercial, featuring Gut Guy racing to the football stadium’s men’s room, among this Super Bowl broadcast’s five worst ads.
This is the slimy looking creature who gets really upset when Mucinex foils his plans to laze around in people’s sinuses. The annoying Mr. Mucus keeps wanting to join the party, while Mucinex excludes him from fun activities like Taco Tuesday.
She’s a demanding pink creature. She has big, blue, perpetually distressed eyes, and she’s always trying to drag our heroine off to the lady’s room. Even when her victim is trying to have a little fun, like bowling, Dancing Bladder is there, pulling her away. Until our heroine tries Myrbetriq.
These are mostly women, fashioned out of amber-colored pipes. They’re breezy and confident as they engage in activities like shopping. Their pipes might be jammed with liquid waste but, because of Vesicare, they have sturdy, hockey puck-like golden bladders to keep them under control.
This demonic little character is many people’s least favorite. He’ll attack somebody’s big toe, raising the nail like the hood of a car, then make himself at home in there. He invites his friends in, spreads a cheesy undercoating and generally has a good time. Unless, of course, the owner of that big toe gets a prescription for Lamisil. The sight of Digger – who has also made appearances as a purveyor of athlete’s foot – has been known to make viewers dive under the furniture or flee to another room.
These five are unlovable, maybe even disgusting characters. However, says the drug industry source, “they stick in your mind.” Like your worst nightmare.