The Fake Heaven of Claritin
by Ken Sanes
Suffering from an allergy often leaves people feeling
trapped and put upon. Their nose and sinuses can be completely stuffed and
they typically feel weighted down, both physically and psychologically.
People often feel that this condition comes between them and the world,
distracting their attention and making them less than appealing in social
situations. Allergy medications offer relief but they have side effects,
including the fact that they can weigh down allergy sufferers in another way
by making them drowsy.
Along comes Schering, a company with a medication that it
wants allergy sufferers to buy to alleviate their symptoms. In an effort to
market its product, it offers a television commercial that make one think
about experiences that are the exact opposite of what allergy sufferers
usually have to endure.
In contrast to the feeling of being trapped and
weighted down, the commercial is full of images of weightlessness and
optimism, with a floating hot air balloon and an upbeat song about blue
In place of the experience of drowsiness and
preoccupation, the commercial offers a sense of clarity, with crystal clear
images of a bright sunny day and a product name -- Claritin -- that contains
most of the word "clarity" in it. And in place of the feeling that stuffed
up sinuses are keeping one from enjoying life and making one feel
anti-social, it offers an image of friends and family embracing good times
and each other's delightful company.
But Schering isn't satisfied
merely suggesting that life will be rich and wonderful if you use the
product. It also does something else -- and this is where things start to
get interesting. It appeals to ingrained archetypes of religious
transcendence that are part of our minds and that appear over and over in
myths and religions, to suggest that by using the product we will achieve
transcendence from the weighted down world of mundane life.
the qualities depicted in the commercial -- clarity of vision, joy, a
feeling of weightlessly escaping the hold of the material world, and the
ability to lovingly embrace other people -- are all attributes that are said
to be part of mystical and religious experiences, and heaven.
what Schering has done here is a variation on what advertising often does --
it has turned the promise of relief from allergy into a promise of
transcendence from society and the physical world, which often leave us
feeling trapped, weighted down and full of pessimism. Whereas being stuffed
up reminds us all too vividly of the hold that the physical body and decay
have on us, Claritin offers perfect, crystal clear, images of a heaven we
can occupy if we use the product. Clearing one's sinuses is transformed into
a state of mental, emotional and spiritual purity and clarity.
You begin to appreciate just how shamelessly Schering has
manipulated desires for transcendence when you see that the company has
actually created a disguised depiction of a Godlike manifestation in the
commercial. It is none other than a representation of the Claritin pill,
which has been transformed into a source of radiant benevolence, beaming
down health and happiness on the inhabitants of Claritin's phony heaven.
Claritin thus takes myth and religion and turns them into tools of
manipulation to get us to buy an allergy product. We know life won't become
a heaven on earth and that we won't ascend to a state of bliss if we buy the
product. But the more primitive, emotional, part of our minds, which is
watching too, doesn't know that. It's more gullible than our conscious and
somewhat rational side, and not too smart. And it has a tendency to respond
to fictions as if they are what they pretend to be, which makes it possible
for great literature and drama to come alive for us but also makes us
susceptible to manipulations such as this.
And so the next time some of us are stuffed up and looking
for relief, the dumb underside of the mind will pop up with a gentle
suggestion -- Claritin. And the most ridiculous thing of all is that some of
us will think it is our own idea.
on the Fake Heaven of Claritin