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Marketing Birth Control

By Amil Niazi

Thursday October 25, 2007


Have you ever felt stifled in your ability to get your point across? Do you feel like you have so much to say, but are unsure as to how to go about saying it? Try birth control! Yes, as a host of new bus and television ads proclaim, “Express yourself, try Alesse.” Give voice to those silent uteri ladies and let your infertile ovaries do the talking for a change. Alesse is gonna change your life. If those ads aren’t aspirational enough for you, how about the ones with a host of pre-teen girls doing awesome things like holding a guitar and looking smart? They are being themselves by being on contraceptive pills. They may not be good at maths, but at least these girls are finally self-actualizing through medication. Gosh, they grow up so fast don’t they?

It may just be part of the marketing dogma for birth control pill ads that they have to be vaguely offensive while abstaining from advertising the actual use of said product. These are birth control pills but there is never any mention of sex or pregnancy. Alesse and Yaz and Ortho Tri-cyclen are apparently lifestyle drugs. They are the new promoters of self-esteem and the modern brand of deluded female empowerment.

My personal favourite in the ad department are the Alesse ads that featured “secret agents” running around with spy toys and declaring, en francais and deutsch, that they were on Alesse. What’s Alesse? The audience is left thinking. What is the great mystery, adventure or mission these fabulous women are embarking on? Meanwhile the four ladies end up awkwardly waiting in the same elevator, seemingly to have (paid?) sex with the same guy. Careful ladies, Alesse doesn’t prevent sexually transmitted diseases. So what’s the message here? You’re slutty, you’re exciting, you’re in charge … you’re on birth control? Why the hyperbole, why all the touting of pseudo-glamourous lifestyles and self-expression?

Fact is if you’re on birth control you are on it to not get pregnant. That’s it. You’re not thinking about tapping in to your inner vixen or becoming a walking example of perverted female politics. You just like having sex without the baby part. If a birth control pill can offer you that and maybe contain less of the side effects normally associated with contraceptive medication (like strokes, heart attacks, weight gain and moodiness) then you’ll probably buy it. End of story. So why do advertisers push the false lifestyle so hard?

It’s simpler than you might think. They can’t. For a long time you weren’t even allowed to advertise contraceptives on TV – including condoms. Networks didn’t want their family programming interspersed with family prevention and censors clutched their dicks praying that their sensibilities were never tarnished with mention of sex or procreation. Sure we’ve come a slightly farther way since then, but rhetoric and fear have a firm grip, so advertisers go out of their way not to depict any sort of realism when pushing their pills. But while they continue to please terrified Christian mothers and uptight networks the world over, they are doing a great disservice to their consumers. Women, especially young women, need to be presented clinical information in a way that’s clear, concise and informative. Don’t fuck around and tell teens your shitty pill is going to turn them in to Joey Potter from Dawson’s Creek. Give them the facts. Stop deluding women in to thinking appletinis and birth control go hand in hand.

Seriously, we’re not looking for a sitcom, just accurate medical information.