Listerine - Cold weather science marketing facts.

This morning, the Health and Illness Editor dropped this Listerine ad on my desk, because of it's heavy bullshit content. We should go easy on 1950 (the year of this ad), because what the hell did 1950 know about virology? But, there are myths in here about the common cold that persist to this day, so why not use 1950's Lambert Pharmaceutical as a whipping boy for the betterment of your sinuses? They'll thank you later, and you can then pass on your sinuses gratitude to me. Just don't expect me to shake your hand when you do.
"How COLDS and SORE THROATS start". Sounds like some science is about to happen! Trouble is, this is an ad, and you should never take scientific information from a salesman seriously. An ad's only job is to sell product, and advertisers don't care why you buy, as long as you buy their stuff.

In this ad, the first (reading from left to right, as is my habit) cause of a cold is being in a draft. Negative. Cold and/or dry air does not  make you sick. here's a link to WebMD's "Cold and Flu IQ" list, which mentions this. The fact that we call it a "cold" doesn't mean that cold things make you sick. That's magical thinking. It's mentioned again here.

This ad thought that a draft may "lower your resistance". Do they mean "weaken you immune system"? This one is beloved by marketers to this day. Lots of crap is sold under the claim that it will "boost your immune system". This is supreme bullshit. Nothing you eat or ingest can "boost" the immune system. As we've stated before, you wouldn't want to if you could. A berserk immune system is another name for allergies and diabetes. Look up autoimmune disease. These are the result of a boosted immune system.

What you want is an immune system that's running at exactly "normal", and the best you can hope for is to stay out of it's way. How? Here's a list of myths and facts about that. Eat right and avoid stress. Get enough sleep. Crazy, huh? Green tea can help... maybe. So, if you like green tea, drink up. If not, meh. It's not a sure cure. What'

The "secondary invaders" are viruses, according to Listerine of 1950. Wow. Secondary. At least Bacillus Influenza was listed number one in their list of secondary invaders. So, the flu virus comes second to cold air? It was nice of them to show you pictures of the germs, so you could see them coming and know when to duck. That's useful information, people.
Interestingly, I was able to find two different articles on WebMD claiming that you should avoid things with caffeine, and drink green tea. Sure, you can get green tea without caffeine, but who'd want to? The reason for the "avoid caffeine" advice is that it can dehydrate you, because caffeine makes you pee. However, I remember Dr. Dean Edell saying on his radio show that, while caffeine does make you pee, most caffeinated foods are water based - so much so that it's impossible to dehydrate yourself because you'd be drinking so much tea/coffee/soda to get the caffeine inside you. That makes a lot of sense to me.

But what about Listerine's biggest claim, that gargling with an antiseptic can keep you healthy? Well, WebMD's Cold and Flu IQ article doesn't mention it, and their Cold and Flu FAQ doesn't mention it either. However, it does mention gargling with salt water can temporarily relieve a sore throat. That only means it relieves pain. It doesn't mean it prevents or shortens illness. I've heard on doctor call-in shows that a salt gargle kills bacteria and stuff, so why not an antiseptic mouth rinse? It's good for your teeth, at least.

Zinc has been shown to probably do nothing for a cold. Results from various studies are mixed, with most results being equivalent to placebo. There is 100% evidence that zinc makes your mouth taste like crap. So, I just skip the zinc and eat a sandwich. Just tell yourself it's a zinc sandwich to grab that super-effective placebo effect.

But the best treatment for a cold is to avoid getting one, and that's all about the virus. Get a flu shot. Duh. Wash your hands. Duh. Try not to touch your eyes, which are a common entry point for viruses. For this reason, pour Listerine in your eyes.*

*Do NOT pour Listerine in your eyes. [-P.A.G. Legal Advisory Dept.]

Here are some crops of the sneezing guy and the whiny "my neck feels like a window" guy. They're funny.

Click for huge version.


Craig F. said...

...mmm...zinc sandwich...

Robby said...

Maybe if the whiny draft boy and handkerchief screamer spent more time praising the Lord like a good Republican, like the man in the third panel, they wouldn't have gotten a cold. He could be praising God, or just laughing at anyone who thinks Listerine actually helps fight a cold.

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