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  • Earle Levenstein

I'll Have What He Had



You know, the more TV commercials I see, the more I think I ought to be doing penance for my many years in advertising; creating ads and commercials from dog food and credit cards, to—here's the mea culpa part—cigarettes and drugs.

Dog food was my first TV spot; I love dogs and that was fun.

I had an animated dog talking directly into camera in a very professional way; interrupted a couple of times by the off-screen voice of a man commanding the dog to Roll Over; or Fetch; the dog politely apologizing to us each time, disappearing off camera, the man's voice saying, Good dog! the dog popping back on screen, continuing his commercial.

I'm sure dogs loved it and maybe even the Good dog! guy bought a bag or two. Score one for me.

Drug advertising early on, was sort of raucous and silly; a lot of shouting and pretend physicians holding up products; stretching the truth just a little bit; but nothing serious, really.

Then, bombshell.

A government regulation; drugs requiring a physician's prescription could not be advertised to the general public. Period.

Direct, Clear. No ifs ands or buts. That'll do it, right?

Well, folks; I'm sure you've noticed; times have changed. Revised regulations; had to loosen them up a little; we were too rigid, you know? Made it really tough for drug manufacturers to sell anything. Had to give them a break. Only fair, right?

Now prescription drug advertising is permitted on TV; but every commercial must list all warnings, possible risks, potential dangers, allergic reactions—the works. The same stuff you see in the prescribed drugs you pick up at your local pharmacy.

OK? Best of both worlds, right?

So now, around the clock, your screen is filled with prescription drug commercials. Gather the whole family around—kids too; why not?—and watch the parade of jolly, laughing, joy-filled people. Couldn't be a happier or healthier bunch.

Conditions? Well, we hear a voice—I'd say sort of like a machine gun talking; rat-a-tat-tat!—conforming to government rules; rattling off usage directions at a killer pace; a fire-engine racing through red lights; siren blasting; with warnings, too; in teeny type—read it if you can—at the bottom of the screen.

Generally ending with a beauty shot of the drug and a smiling, totally healthy, happy man, woman practically singing: "I can breathe again!" or walk, or sleep, or…whatever.

I was involved at one time; with an analgesic; no physician's prescription required; I used it regularly—a whole other story—and without being overly defensive, I'd say aspirin is a far cry from those other guys; and I had no problem with helping to sell it.

As for cigarette advertising; all I can say is none is allowed; anywhere; period; end of discussion. It took the surgeon general and indisputable evidence of smoking as a cause of lung cancer. Death is a scary word; and cigarettes qualified. For years before the big Verboten; you couldn't turn around without seeing a huge outdoor billboard; or a newspaper ad; or a TV spot…just bringing out the real man stuff that sells just about anything. Basically, unless you were a wimp, you should be smoking.

I—mea culpa; mea culpa—was involved in product testing and advertising for one new cigarette and test TV commercials for another, just prior to the big total ban. Neither cigarette went to market.

Anyway, after all that, I left advertising, took a shower, felt clean and refreshed and went back to cartooning.

Not selling anything, really.

Just a couple of laughs and a boost to my favorite candidate.


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