Wednesday, April 9, 2014

CANCER HOSPITAL ADS: Let's draw the line in the sand (A Rant)

Last Friday, waiting for my tutoring client, I bought a magazine at the library book store.  I bought it because, leafing through quickly, I saw  a heading: Cancer News.  Underneath that was a big yellow number 4 (2 1/2 inches high) and the text:  things every cancer patient must do.  A flap opened, with some orange rectangles - the questions patients must ask. Wow, what a magazine.

I paid my few cents and took it home for a closer look.  Quotes from MDs (good idea.)  A picture of a cancer survivor and her bicycle--and a link to find her story.  (Okay)

Then I look at the orange  rectangles marked with Q for questions:  "What happens if a treatment approach doesn't work for me?"  (Gee, shouldn't you find out first if you even like the doctor?  Or if she has a treatment in mind?  This may be a good question.  Or . . .)

Another Q rectangle: "How many patients have you treated with my type and stage of cancer, and how successful have you been?"  (Wait a minute!  Who you gonna ask?  Do you honestly think the doctor knows how many? Do you think the hospital administrator knows?  And how do you define "success," what with other diseases interfering, allergies to medicine, and each person's immune system.  How many patients actually followed the regime?  And let's face it.  Mistakes happen with any treatment variable.)

I was smelling a rat.  I was right.  At the top of that flap in teeny letters was the name of a medical group.   And all the MDs quoted were from there, of course.

The last page features a blazing yellow and orange chart of integrative care approach, presumably theirs? At the bottom, of course, their phone number and web address.  And thumbnail color photos.  (Would you pick a cancer hospital from a photo?)

 I was lucky, and a bit informed, when I chose my local hospital.  I decided on my care step by step. I researched the famous hospitals. There are other ways to research on line and be more than lucky.  There are ways to talk about it with your primary doctor in depth. There are survivors to ask.  There are ways to comb through a hospital website and see if your gut instinct finds a red flag.

Did someone at the magazine go over this ad and realize it was intended to look like an article?  At the Advertising Center, L.A., they called this borrowed credibility or words to that effect.) And there's the matter of communication ethics.

Will the women who read this ad be primed  (if I may borrow a word from Malcolm Gladwell) by the advertisers hitching their wagon to a star-- the reputation of glossy MORE magazine?  If someone is diagnosed with cancer later, in her head somewhere are some of that ad's words, and she thinks "I've heard of them!"

I fear choices made that way.  What do you think?

No comments: