I was reading the Feb. 19 US News & World Report and came across a section of drug and device advertising after its "Health Watch" section. I guess I am now inured to drug ads because the only ad that really caught my attention was the one from Medtronic for its implantable cardiac defibrillator ("ICD"). It is quite similar to the company's web version of the same material.
I am trying to figure out how well this ad works, and I welcome your thoughts.
Here's my perspective. First, I am a capitalist, and I believe that firms and hospitals and others have a right to advertise, subject to normal societal rules about content and accuracy. So, you won't find me saying that ads of this sort are immoral or unethical -- although I truly understand why some people believe that. Second, I am always curious to understand why an ad has been placed, why it has been designed the way it has, and what the target audience is.
So, I look at this ad for an ICD, and I try to figure out what the point is. Is the ad designed to tell people with heart problems about ICDs? It seems to be written that way -- "If you've had a heart attack, or have heart failure, an ICD could make a big difference" -- but how can that be? Surely, anyone who has severe enough heart disease to warrant an ICD is highly likely to have been told about this option by his or her doctor. Is it worth the money for an ad campaign for the small number of patients who might not have heard about this option?
Is the ad designed to get a patient to ask for a Medtronic ICD from the doctor, as opposed to one from another manufacturer? A minor possibility, I guess, although I am guessing that the MD already has a favored technology that he or she will choose for the patient.
Is it designed to get cardiologists to choose a Medtronic device over another company's? I doubt it, at least in this magazine. Not that cardiologists might not read USN&WR, but I can't see it as their trusted source of information on cardiac devices. Also, this ad is clearly targeted to lay people -- "An ICD can give you more time to do the things you love with the people you love."
Is it designed for the general public, to place a subliminal message in our brain for years hence, when we might develop heart disease, that it is a Medtronic ICD on which we should insist? I doubt it, for I do not believe that ads have that kind of permanence in our memory.
So, I guess I just don't get it, and I am asking for your help. What do you think is the purpose of this kind of ad? And, do you think it is effective in accomplishing that purpose?
(Please, I am really asking these questions because I don't understand. I have no hidden agenda. This is not a critique of this company, this product, or (as mentioned) our economic system! I am hoping that doctors, patients, or manufacturers out there can offer insights to us all.)