Pfizer’s Centrum Ad Assumes We’re All Stupid

How stupid does Pfizer (the maker of Centrum) think people are? I just saw a Centrum 50+ ad on ABC news featuring an older man who says his doctor told him to take the multivitamin a few years ago and didn’t think much of it…until he heard that it “was chosen for another landmark study, this time looking at eye health. My doctor…he knows his stuff.” That’s the end of the ad.

The assumption is that simply because this product is included in a study means it’s good/trustworthy. Unfortunately, I look at a lot of medical studies for my work as an editor, and that’s far from the truth. That a product is included in a study is only a tiny part of any meaningful picture. First of all, this ad mentions no study conclusions. That is, any medical study looks at whether — or NOT — a certain medication improves health: It could, or it could not. Even if — and this is a BIG if — a study finds a positive correlation, that doesn’t mean it will ever see the light of day. That’s because by some estimates only 10 percent of all studies conducted are even accepted to be published in a medical journal — the standard for any study to be taken seriously and reported by the mainstream media in the first place. And even if a study is published, results should always be taken with a grain of salt: Among studies that ARE actually published, most are later proven wrong — meaning they do not have a reliable, predictive, replicable outcome (i.e., their results are likely to be later disproved by other studies because of inherent bias and human error). All of this to say that most studies are nearly impossible to publish, and even published medical research is highly inaccurate. The fact that a drug is simply being studied means pretty much NOTHING.

So why did this ridiculous ad ever get made? For one, it’s by a pharma company, Pfizer. Just think about most drug ads (side effects may include: runny eyes, stuffy nose, diarrhea, high blood pressure, sexual disfunction, rash on your ass, and sometimes death; do not take this if you suffer from acid reflux disease or gluten intolerance). I suppose by only mentioning the fact that it was INCLUDED in a study gets around having to include all of the nasty stuff that’s required disclosure when advertising a drug, like possible side effects (not that a multivitamin has many, and Centrum is OTC…but since it’s made by Pfizer, one of the leading pharma companies, they’re probably extra-“cautious” about these kinds of risks). But I think in the end this ad got made because a marketer at Pfizer’s ad agency thought dumb Americans would see it and think that because Centrum is “chosen” for a “landmark” study, they need to taking it. Maybe those admen are right. But I hope for all of our sake they’re not.


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