Dada Ads: Nihilism and Nonsense
The Greatest, Most Persuasive Line in the History of Advertising
In my opinion, the most powerful single line of copy anywhere was most likely not the product of a copywriter, but rather a case of accidental pure brilliance by a doctor or a lawyer. It absolutely dominates this commercial—and all other E.D. efforts (e.g., Cialis):
... seek immediate medical help for an erection lasting more than four hours.
All other Dada Ads for prescription drugs—with their disclaimers of illness and death—pale to insignificance next to potency of this image.
In short, I cannot think of any advertising ever where you are promised comfort and healing and then threatened with serious illness and death if you ingest the product.
The whole thing is ... well, Dada.
Takeaways to Consider
- Never before in advertising has a technique evolved whereby the same ad extols a product on the one hand and then trashes it a few seconds later by scaring hell out of the potential buyer.
- This oxymoronic advertising was legitimized with a Viagra commercial by war hero, senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole.
- Years ago, prescription drugs were sold direct to physicians only. Now the drug companies are going after consumers to put pressure on their doctors to prescribe these drugs. Viagra was the tip of iceberg. On my computer are examples of this technique for 52 prescription drugs.
- It seems to me that if a doctor prescribes one of these 52 products and the patient becomes ill or dies from a listed side effect, it could be the start of a messy malpractice suit.
- My opinion: the most startlingly powerful line of copy in the history of advertising is "... seek immediate medical help for an erection lasting more than four hours."
- If you have a better one, by all means let's see it!
- An itch I have wanted to scratch for several years is the creation of a neo-Dada work of art—a YouTube video on this strange genre of advertising that breaks all the rules, just as the Dada movement broke all the rules of art back in the 1920s.
- This video would string together all 52 disclaimers showing adults in the prime of good health taking part all kinds of activities while the lugubrious voice-over disclaimers describe the litany of horrible consequences that can result from ingesting the poisons being advertised.