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October 11, 2011
Brow-Furrowing Chemical Ads
Now, I know that I'm not the first to notice this. And in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty trivial. But isn't it true, and hasn't it been true for many years, that the print advertisements of chemical companies are often strange and useless?
Here's an example from a recent issue of Chemical and Engineering News, one that was open on my desk to this very spot. Now, I don't know what a quarter-page goes for these days - probably not as much as the folks at C&E News would like for it to - but this was wasted money for sure. Let's count the ways. For one thing, the purple molecule graphic might be a neat-looking thing in a cosmetics ad, but not when placed in a magazine whose subscriber base is about 98% people with a chemistry degree. The slogan ("Our people make the difference") is such an ancient chunk of corporate goodthink that it can't even support a good covering of mold any more. And are we to infer that the model, a vaguely futuristic Eurofied Joni Mitchell, is one of those people? Not hardly. And what's with the cyber-gizmo dog collar thing she's wearing? One of those invisible-fence zappers, scaled up to human size?
The ad enjoins us to visit them at a conference booth in Geneva, which is at least a place where you're sure to find out what on earth Saltigo does. To be fair, the opposite page in the C&E News issue has another Saltigo ad, which has a couple of chemists in an unexciting but straightforward pitch that lets you know that they're a custom synthesis/process company that you can hire to try to save you money during production. (Interestingly, at least for me, I just now noticed that the first of the two, Andreas Stolle, is an old colleague of mine from my days at the Wonder Drug Factory in Connecticut - hello, Andreas! And tell your ad agency to make sure to spell "throughout" properly next time.)
No, I'm sure that Saltigo's a perfectly good outfit. But their ads aren't doing much to get that across. Nor are they the only company in that position - a glance through any issue of any magazine in the field will yield a rich harvest of ads that are drably functional at best, and baffling at worst. I wouldn't want the job of producing the things, I have to admit - but doesn't someone want to do it better than it's being done?
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