By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
At least once a day, I run across a room yelling, “No, no, no!” Then I lunge for the remote control, the way a soldier dives for a grenade before it explodes.
I push that mute button like my sanity depends on it – because it does. If I don’t hit mute or fast-forward in time, Tom and I might hear one of the many commercial jingles designed to burrow into the human brain and never, ever leave. (We’re looking at you, Skyrizi, Jardiance, and Ozempic. Your jingles are jangling our nerves, and we don’t like it.)
Now that we’re officially middle-aged, we must block out this noise as much as possible. There’s no extra room in my brain. My headspace is more crowded now than it has ever been. And every time I hear another pharmaceutical jingle, that catchy little tune moves into my head while something far more important falls out – like my Amazon password or which row I parked on at Walmart.
I understand why drug companies do this. They think if people are busy humming along to the song while watching a lady dance with a mailman, they might not hear the subtle disclaimers behind the melody – lines like “may cause serious side effects like ketoacidosis that may be fatal, dehydration that can lead to sudden worsening of kidney function, or genital yeast or urinary tract infections.” Then they slip in this little nugget of info right before the music swells to a finish: “A rare, life-threatening bacterial infection of the skin of the perineum could occur.”
What’s a perineum? Not sure. I was too busy singing to pay attention to the whispered warnings.
I know this isn’t a new problem. Marketing experts have been selling us stuff with addictive melodies long before the first “plop-plop, fizz-fizz” of the 1970s. They know that if the brain absorbs new information in the form of a song, it’s much more likely to remember it – especially if you repeat it roughly two zillion times a day.
Years ago, I used this tactic on my own kids when they were in preschool. For safety reasons, I needed to make sure they knew our home address and phone number (because tiny humans didn’t have smartphones or Apple Air Tags back then). So I made up a song using the information as lyrics, and I’d ask them to sing it to me at random times to make sure they really knew it. To this day, those three kids, who are now 22, 19, and 17, say that they can’t write down our address without hearing that song in their head – to which I say, “Mission accomplished.”
But what today’s drug commercials are doing is different. They’re not putting “Oh, oh, oh, Ozempic” in my head for safety reasons. They want me to sing it while I wait at red lights and hum it all the way into a doctor’s office where I ask for a prescription.
Capitalism is corrupting our music, people! If we’re not careful, these 30-second earworms will become a nationwide problem. (Nationwide is on your side.)
These dangerous ditties are the siren song of mindless consumerism. We have to wake up! (The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.)
After all, we’re not easily manipulated children. We have to grow up. (I don’t wanna grow up. I’m a Toys R Us kid.) Because that’s what responsible adults do. (Do a dollop, do-do a dollop of Daisy.)
But maybe I’m being paranoid – just making something out of nothing. However, if you ask the singer of the Skyrizi jingle, “Nothing is everything.” See what I mean? These earworms will make us all nuts! (Sometimes you feel like a nut… sometimes you don’t. Almond Joy’s got nuts. Mounds don’t.)
If we can’t create a national ban on these jingles, maybe we could limit the frequency. We could send all advertisers a strongly worded letter from the collective TV watchers of America and kindly ask if they would just give us a break. (Gimme a break… Break me off a piece of that Kit Kat bar!)
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go buy some chocolate. I’ll let you know when it’s time to sign that letter. In the meantime, for your own safety, keep your finger on that mute button.
Gwen Rockwood is a syndicated freelance columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her book is available on Amazon.