How Drug Companies Cleverly Hide Their Product’s Side Effects In Their Ads

Drug companies are required by law to mention their product’s side effects in their commercials. Sometimes these side effects can by pretty horrifying so, needless to say, this is a great challenge for the pharmaceutical industry.

But two decades after their direct-to-consumer TV ads have been began flooding American homes, their communications departments found some creative ways of not focusing on the negative side effects.

How do they do it? By using some simple yet clever and effective techniques. (the article continues after the ad)


The most famous technique is by using two narrators in their advertisements. The first one has a confident voice and is used to describe the benefits of the drug while the second one has a calm voice and describes the side effects. By using this technique, the audience is aware of a calm situation that draws the attention away from the risks.


When talking about the side effects, the narrator rushes through the risks so the people have a hard time remembering them. Research has shown that hurried narrators made it more difficult for the audience to catch up and remember what they’ve heard. 


People absorb more information when they can actually see the person speaking. That’s why, drug makers have the “benefit narrator” on screen while the side effects are usually said by voiceover. This makes the risks less engaging and therefore, harder for the audience to remember. 

Of course, all these tactics can’t be too conspicuous or they run the risk of getting picked by the FDA. But as you can tell, these communication tactics have proven to be very effective throughout the years.

So now that you know, next time you stumble upon a drug commercial just try to by pass by these techniques and focus on the side effects – it should be easier to do so.

If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: The Chivas Regal Effect: How Brands Are Fooling You To Pay More For Less

Photos: overjupiter / pixabay
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: How drug ad narrators take the scariness out of side effects | Why TV Drug Ads Work Despite Disclosing Terrifying Side Effects

The Surprisingly Fascinating Story Of How ‘Boycott’ Became Synonymous With Mass Avoidance

The Incredible Story Of The Woman Who Jumped Off The Empire State Building But Was Saved By The Wind