Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Depressing, But Kind of Cute

Have you seen this commercial for Abilify, an anti-depression drug?

It must be hard to advertise antidepressants.  No one wants to watch a commercial full of depressed people, yet you can't show them being too happy, lest you cross over into bipolar territory.  (Anyway, anti-depressants don't make you happy; at best they keep you from being a stark raving maniac and let you sort out happiness for yourself.)

Erectile dysfunction medications have dealt with a similar difficulty by being, shall we say, metaphorical in their ads. So you see commercials full of men (who are in no way over-the-hill pathetic horndogs) who are "cooking," or on a boat with "wind in their sails" or "dancing" with the woman they love. Then you have Mike Ditka talking about being "back in the game," which is more than I ever wanted to know about Mike Ditka. And don't get me started on the ones with the bathtubs (I get the plumbing vibe, but ewwww).

In any event, antidepressant ads aren't nearly so entertaining. First of all, most of the good visual metaphors for happiness look like acid trips or hip-hop videos (or both).  Secondly, it's not a good idea to over-promise to depressed people.  Let's face it, when "thoughts of suicide" are a stated side effect of the drug you're advertising to people who may want to kill themselves, you know you're walking a fine line.  So most commercials stick to slow-motion shots of walking and half-smiles that may or may not suggest the start of a nervous breakdown.

But the new Abilify commercial above is awesomely different.  It's a cartoon!  Cartoons that aren't third-rate anime are pretty cheerful, right?.  The makers have wisely avoided seizure-inducing Pokemon-style animation in favor of soft washes of color and lots of green grass and blue sky.  There's also a very reassuring animated doctor, although personally I might not have featured a man in a white coat so prominently in an ad for, uh, crazy people.

But the best part about this Abilify commercial is that it includes depression itself in a starring role.  Depression is so darn cute in this ad that you almost hate to take a medication that sends him away.  Of course, he never really goes away:  Before Abilify, you see, depression is a deep hole in the earth, or a ball and chain manacled to your arm.  But when taken as directed, Abilify turns him into a little floating blob with googly eyes who obediently follows you around.  Like a puppy! Or that guy who never returned your affections and sent you into a spiral of sadness and self-loathing, if only he knew what he was missing, mrghlwfcrblmrghl...

Depression (the animated character) responds really well to this medication.  He even sits in a chair and diligently takes notes while the doctor tells you how to drug him into submission.  Good boy!  Then he accompanies you on a family picnic, helpfully devouring anthills and sniffing out truffles while you enjoy yourself.  Now that's putting depression to work for you - much better than when it just churns out notebooks full of bad poetry and symbolic drawings of carrion birds.

In short, depression seems to be a pretty cool little dude from what I see here.  Myself, I never successfully personified my chemical imbalance, and so it remained a shroudlike veil whose inexorable approach I could never quite see out of the corner of my eye, slowly cutting me off from everything I loved with its dark, suffocating embrace.  But I'm much better now.

Anyway, kudos to the Abilify folks for making a commercial that depicts depression as something that can be managed and brought down to size.  It's the truth, you know.  But I'm down to my last couple of doses of happy pills right now, so don't piss me off, OK?

The author takes generic Prozac (which doesn't advertise much because its patents have expired) and calls her depression Mr. Skippy.

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