July 1 2011: A Gallery Of Pharmaceutical Advertising from M.D. Magazine (1967)
With the future of the NHS and the role of doctors in buying in treatments on the table in the UK, it’s been more than a little illuminating to read through a batch of late 1960s American magazines targeted at doctors, whose buying power has always been courted by big business. M.D. Magazine was (and – who knows? – perhaps still is) a very high quality publication, full of excellent articles on the history of medicine, the arts, archaeology, science and many other curious subjects, all targeted at an aspirational market, and all financed with lavish, full colour advertising for pharmaceutical products.
Most is for tranquilisers, sedatives, hormonal treatments and mood control drugs, with a smattering of treatments for respiratory and heart problems in the mix, and all is pitched with the same feel for emotional manipulation and eye-catching design of more familiar Madison Avenue endorsed products, like soft drinks, white goods and washing powder. Here are the same soft-focus women used to sell the romantic possibilities of perfume being rather creepily portrayed as Sleeping Beauties on sedatives, the same lively housewives used in soap-powder ads to denote the ease of washday used to show how effective a tranquiliser can be in helping a mother through her day.
It’s fascinating material, clearly intended for the consumption of professionals rather than the public and often beautifully designed and pitched. It also shows what level of resources can be brought into play to influence clinical decisions when the opportunity to deploy them is opened up to those who stand to benefit from the profits that might be made.