Direct to Consumer Advertising as Propaganda

As we have stated, pharmaceutical companies use advertising agencies to promote their products by inserting their presence in the attention of their consumers. We know this to be true from the massive amount of pharmaceutical advertising in 21st century America.

Direct-to-consumer advertising is the most abundant and recognizable of drug companies’ use of propaganda. For the sake of establishing terms, we will define direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCs) as the use of mass media to publicly promote drugs, medical devices or other products which, by law, require a prescription, which targets consumers, with the intent of having a patient request the product by name. While we see hundreds of examples of this definition in media, we as a society are usually unable to differentiate between the DTCs and legitimate ads.

A pair of recognizable direct-to-consumer advertisments.

Fortunately, there are individuals who can guide society to enlightenment on this topic. Melody Peterson is a premier example of journalists who aim to expose the unethical market actions taken by these companies and is even the author of an exposé-book on pharmaceutical advertising, (Our Daily Meds). Petersen’s work gives people the information they need to know to be informed consumers of drugs. The best way to identify a DTC is to look for phrases that command the audience to ask their doctor for a prescription.

By itself, a DTC is no major propaganda. However, en masse DTCs become the norm for consumers. Because of this, consumers assume it to be reasonable for a commercial to inform them of a potential medical condition, its symptoms, and how to treat it; essentially replacing the role of a doctor for a consumer. By removing an informed physician from the consumer’s process, pharmaceutical companies can turn over a much larger profit faster than they could before. This method is dangerous to the consumers and can only happen from a drastic change in how consumers view medicine. This altered consumer mindset is clearly a function direct-to-consumer advertising, thus proving the nature of DTCs as propaganda.

Back to the Introduction