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Non-dialogue dialogue - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Non-dialogue dialogue
I was just watching another bad commercial. This one wasn't one of the philosophically screwy ones, but the writing sucked so very many rocks.

Anyway, it's been out for a while, and every time I see it I think, I really want to bitch about this ad, but then I forget. So, I'll do it now.

It's an ad for a PMDD/contraceptive pill called Yaz. I have no idea whether the product is good, bad, or indifferent, but I have a very strong desire to re-write the commercial just because it's bad. The "plot," such as it is, is a happy woman going to club to meet with her friends. She tells them chirpily that last month, she couldn't have done it at this time, but now that she's on Yaz, her PMDD (dutifully described as different from PMS) isn't bothering her anymore. One of her friends then starts in, and essentially reads the warnings off the box. Yup--those voiceovers that you in other prescription drug commercials? She says them. Like dialogue. At the end, one of her friends says, "You sure know a lot." Well, says Miss Know-It-All, I didn't go to medical school for nothing. Friends all laugh and call her a show-off, and they order drinks or somtehing. End scene.

Now, this could be done. There's no reason you couldn't frame a commercial with a couple of women talking about a new pill, even if you had a crazy desire to set it at a club. Wouldn't be my choice of venue, but I can accept that some people might think it was fun. Whatever. But the text on the back of a box with the government warnings is not dialogue. You have to recast it if you're going to put it in the mouth of a human being who's purportedly having a casual conversation with friends. Granted, the actress doing this was no great shakes, but she was giving it her all--A for effort--and frankly, Olivier couldn't pull that dialogue off. (He'd also have looked a little silly hawking PMDD/contraception drugs, but that's a whole 'nother subject.) Because it isn't dialogue. There's a difference. Even someone giving a lecture doesn't talk like a list of warnings on a box.
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stephantom From: stephantom Date: February 28th, 2007 12:56 am (UTC) (Link)
Haha, I've seen that too and I'm always like "..." The way everyone watches her intently like, "Hmm... Go on..." is hilarious.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 28th, 2007 12:58 am (UTC) (Link)
I know. I mean, all the birth control commercials are bound to come out corny--fluffy songs about being all free and happy and not having to worry about having babies and all that--but come on! It's so.... Um...

ratcreature From: ratcreature Date: February 28th, 2007 01:01 am (UTC) (Link)
Would be rewording these things even an option in drug ads? I suspect it might not be allowed to put warnings in casual and probably less precise terms in an official company ad. Here all drug commercialy just say that you need to ask your doctor or pharmacist for risks and side effects and don't mention anything specific, but that phrase is standardized.
sreya From: sreya Date: February 28th, 2007 01:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Simple way to do it would have been to have them start the conversation, have the actress continue with the warnings as voiceover while the women are dancing/laughing/whatever, then cut back in to focusing on them for more dialogue for the end lines.

But yeah - it's annoying as is. The first time I heard it I just went "HUH?!"
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 28th, 2007 02:05 am (UTC) (Link)
Simple way to do it would have been to have them start the conversation, have the actress continue with the warnings as voiceover while the women are dancing/laughing/whatever, then cut back in to focusing on them for more dialogue for the end lines.

Exactly. That's the simple way, and yeah, it's expected, and I can see someone going, "Well, let's be different." And different does make it stand out... but so not in a good way.
timesink From: timesink Date: February 28th, 2007 01:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Sadly, you can't reword the warnings; FDA regulations.

Miss Know-It-All should have whipped out the box and read off the warnings in a fakey voice, and then she and her friends could have laughed or something.
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: February 28th, 2007 02:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I hate that one too. The first time I saw it I was like...huh? I didn't go to med school and only ever had law school friends -- but I'd bet my copy of Deathly Hallows that no med school student/doctor talks that way to their friends in casual conversation.

Only slightly less annoying is the one (for a different drug) where the doctor is leading his interns on rounds and quizzing them on treatment and when one mentions the drug in question they all dutifully recite the precautions etc. I mean, I guess in that scenario a group of eager to please young know-it-alls would memorize the text-book verbatim answers...still feels awkward to me, though.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 28th, 2007 02:54 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, you kind of expect the doctor to pull a House and say, "Good job memorizing the specs, but what else can you use it for? Hint: It's not lupus!"
lauraflute From: lauraflute Date: February 28th, 2007 03:14 am (UTC) (Link)
It's NEVER lupus! ;)
(Deleted comment)
gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: February 28th, 2007 03:58 am (UTC) (Link)
That suddenly reminded me of the article I read a week or so ago about docs using Viagra to save a preemie's life.

Now that's an alternative use!
(Deleted comment)
lazypadawan From: lazypadawan Date: February 28th, 2007 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)
"Let's break for lunch."

"Don't forget to eat right and exercise!"

gabrielladusult From: gabrielladusult Date: February 28th, 2007 04:09 am (UTC) (Link)
LOL! I forgot about that part -- yeah, it's so completely stiff and fake, if I saw it on Scrubs I'd assume they were trying to be funny.
lazypadawan From: lazypadawan Date: February 28th, 2007 04:10 am (UTC) (Link)
I HATE that commercial. First, it's impossible to have a conversation in a nightclub. And even if they were able to hear each other, they'd be shouting, and slurring their words from all of the booze. Second, nobody can rattle off side effect warnings off the top of their heads, especially after drinking. Third, given Miss-Know-It-All's apparent age, she would likely be pulling a 36 hour shift at the hospital instead of giggling with her slutty friends at a nightclub.

this_is_kelly From: this_is_kelly Date: February 28th, 2007 04:19 am (UTC) (Link)
My friends and I have had the conversations over dinner (never at a club) about different types of birth control and what works for us. Never once have we discussed teh warnings or anything. We know what they are. And if we didn't, we can read. I agree - that commerical is really stupid. Obviously reading the box isn't very colloquial, though you'd think that they could make it sound more dialogue-friendly, but she sounds like she's reading a cue-card.
From: (Anonymous) Date: February 28th, 2007 02:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've seen some of these US ads for prescription medicines and it confuses me -- shouldn't your doctor be deciding what medication you need?

~NHS user, DorisCrockford
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 28th, 2007 03:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that's my thought, and I can imagine doctors being very frustrated with patients who come in asking over and over for whatever's being advertised. For years, it was against broadcasting regulations, but that was lifted, apparently on the thought that patients pestering doctors would cause them to wear down and order it. Oh, no, wait, the reasoning was, "Shouldn't you have control over your health decisions, rather than your doctor?"

Yeah, that's always a good idea. 'Cause I totally understand drug interactions, non-prescription approaches, other ways of dealing with medical problems, and generally always know exactly what's wrong with me. What do I need a silly doctor for? Grr. Sorry, I'm not a fan of the Great New Way, and spent enough time around doctors as a kid (my mom's a nurse) to know that they are more likely to have all the information about something like this than I am. 'Cause, you know, that's what they do.
sprite6 From: sprite6 Date: February 28th, 2007 03:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
It is troubling; it's so easy to get misinformation by looking things up on the Internet, and I think it exasperates many doctors. But on the other hand, the GP is a dying breed, and specialists may not be able to keep up with things going on in other areas because there's just too much research to stay on top of. And sometimes doctors do dismiss patients' concerns when they shouldn't. Male doctors used to do it when women described certain kinds of pain, saying it was only in their heads; only when women became doctors did that change. I think it's better to annoy the doctor than to have some problem go untreated because you trusted him/her completely.

Mind you, I tend to be the trusting sort myself. So much easier! But then, I'm rarely sick. For people with chronic conditions, it probably makes more sense to be as knowledgeable as possible.
matril From: matril Date: February 28th, 2007 04:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
I hate commercials for prescription medications. Yeah, it's good to be educated and not just accept everything the doctor says as gospel truth, but chances are, he probably does know more about the right treatment than the average patient, and watching one stupid commerical with an actress rattling off the info from the back of the box is not enough to become an expert. Birth control commercials are probably the worst of the bunch. No, scratch that - I forgot about Viagra commercials. :P
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 28th, 2007 04:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Your doctor's also more likely to ask the right questions about what's wrong with you. Most of the symptoms the commercials talk about can have several root causes, and if a prescription commercial for, say, a sleep aid, has a desperate insomniac going, "Yeah, give me that!" the doctor is the one likely to know what questions to ask about lifestyle, other health conditions, and so on that might be behind insomnia. He might do something radical like prescribe afternoon exercise or banning alcohol or trying an anti-anxiety pill or an anti-depressant rather than going straight to a potentially addictive pill only meant to depress the nervous system.
dreamer_marie From: dreamer_marie Date: February 28th, 2007 03:52 pm (UTC) (Link)
Also, the first girl just wants to tell the others about her new pill, and the pseudo-physician girl cuts her off and steals all the attention from her. It's just plain rude...
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: February 28th, 2007 10:14 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: "Adding Flavor to Taste"

Well, you could grill over hot coals rather than open flame. Maybe that's what they mean.

But yeah--"adding flavor to taste." Maybe adding such-and-such a flavor to the taste, or "giving flavor a kick" or something, but... yeah.

satakieli From: satakieli Date: March 31st, 2007 05:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: "Adding Flavor to Taste"

What I'd have thought that meant is an analogue to the common recipe phrase, "add salt to taste" or pepper, or sage, or whatever spice. Then again, that makes the ad sound like it's talking about artificial flavor (yummy) added to someone else's taste preferences rather than my own (oh goody). So appealing. Er.
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