Do Warnings Work?

How many people put down their beers during the Super Bowl when Helen Mirren chastised them? Exactly.

Does chastising work? Do you ever get insults strewn at you and respond with “Thanks, I really needed to hear that. I will change my behavior.” I don’t.

And I think almost everybody who has ever been a parent or a teenager knows that insults are ineffective and, I hate to call Helen Mirren rude, but, rude.

Did Budweiser plan to produce a Super Bowl ad that wouldn’t work? How could they think it would work? The contradiction between the reputation and image of Helen Mirren unleashing a slew of invectives was just too distracting from the message. Very few people focused on the “don’t drive drunk” message. The buzz about the ad was along the lines of, “Hey, look at that English lady insulting somebody!” I’ll bet a 6-pack that not one person put down his or her beer and said, “Good point!”

I have the same sneaking suspicion that some people are not trying their hardest to warn us when I watch drug advertising. 25 seconds of better living through chemicals and 5 seconds of diarrhea, liver failure and death. Does anyone believe those warnings? Of course not! The FDA isn’t going to allow a drug on the market that’s going to kill anyone, right?

How do we get the public to not abuse alcohol and to recognize that drugs come with the risk of adverse events (euphemism for diarrhea, liver failure, death)? I’m not sure, but the companies that earn their salaries by getting us to continue our reckless behavior are the foxes guarding the henhouse. They tried to warn us, didn’t they? They even paid lots of money for movie stars to explain {distract us from hearing} the dangers. It’s not their fault we didn’t listen.

I agree. So let’s take the dollar equivalent of the last 5 seconds of every drug commercial and add to it the value of the “public service” type beer and alcohol ads (include the production, media placement and salaries fees). Put that money at an ad agency with no ties to pharma or the liquor industry and that knows how to sell an idea. They can’t do worse.


Here’s an article from Stat that describes advertising tricks to make the warnings sound less concerning.


Suzanne B. Robotti

Suzanne Robotti founded MedShadow Foundation in 2012. Learn more about Su and her mission.

Did you find this article helpful?

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Latest News

Covid-19: Side Effects of Trump’s Treatments

Covid-19: Side Effects of Trump’s Treatments

President Donald Trump announced (via Twitter, of course) what some considered unthinkable, and others considered inevitable — that he had tested positive for Covid-19. Over the weekend, he received various treatments  — supplements like vitamin D, zinc and melatonin, an experimental antibody combination, an antiviral drug and a powerful anti-inflammatory…

Un-Sheltering Tips for Your Health and Immune System

Un-Sheltering Tips for Your Health and Immune System

As we all emerge from our bubbles of limited contact with others, we are walking straight into the double whammy of flu season and COVID-19 germs. Can your body fight off exposure to the flu and COVID? Your immune system feeds off the basics of life — sleep, movement, food…

  • [class^="wpforms-"]