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Hearts, Minds, and Maladies: Toward a Critical Theory of the Commodification of Pharmaceuticals
Unformatted Document Text:  8 marketing of most every product imaginable (Klein 1999). Drug advertising, however, is distinguishable from other processes of commmodification, for it includes a powerful shaman-like quality which other advertising lacks; medical authority. The Psychosocial Dimension In advertising the Spencerian notion of a functioning language and technology combine is inextricably bound to and in a resultant panoptic power play that is so ubiquitous and “everyday” that it both conditions and passes beyond human consciousness. And yet no modest degree of attention is paid to the brand’s development and mediated instantiation. PBS’s television program Sesame Street, for example, now has underwriting messages for Zithromax, a medication widely prescribed for preschoolers and made by Pfizer, which reminds viewers that “Sesame Street is brought to you by the letter Z, ‘as in Zebra and Zithromax’” (Beatty 2002). Zithromax’s snappy name did not come by happenstance. Nor was it derived from complex laboratory experiments. Linguistic experts tailor brand names to “tap different synapses in their customers’ brains: those linking the raw sounds of vowels and consonants known as phonemes to specific meanings and even emotions.” For example, linguists devised the name for the powerful psychoactive selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) Prozac to have a very specific resonance in the consumer mind. “Prozac: Pro is a rather pedestrian beginning, but the sounds p, z, and k all score highly for the qualities active/daring.” The name of Prozac’s close cousin, Zoloft, is an identical case of linguistic engineering. “Zoloft: Zo means life in Greek and loft elevates the concept” (Begley 2002). Although Prozac has been on the market in the US for almost 15 years its maker, Eli Lilly, has refused to acknowledge several published medical studies linking the drug

Authors: Tracy, James.
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8
marketing of most every product imaginable (Klein 1999). Drug advertising,
however, is distinguishable from other processes of commmodification, for it
includes a powerful shaman-like quality which other advertising lacks; medical
authority.
The Psychosocial Dimension
In advertising the Spencerian notion of a functioning language and
technology combine is inextricably bound to and in a resultant panoptic power
play that is so ubiquitous and “everyday” that it both conditions and passes
beyond human consciousness. And yet no modest degree of attention is paid to
the brand’s development and mediated instantiation. PBS’s television program
Sesame Street, for example, now has underwriting messages for Zithromax, a
medication widely prescribed for preschoolers and made by Pfizer, which
reminds viewers that “Sesame Street is brought to you by the letter Z, ‘as in
Zebra and Zithromax’” (Beatty 2002). Zithromax’s snappy name did not come
by happenstance. Nor was it derived from complex laboratory experiments.
Linguistic experts tailor brand names to “tap different synapses in their
customers’ brains: those linking the raw sounds of vowels and consonants
known as phonemes to specific meanings and even emotions.” For example,
linguists devised the name for the powerful psychoactive selective serotonin
reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) Prozac to have a very specific resonance in the
consumer mind. “Prozac: Pro is a rather pedestrian beginning, but the sounds p,
z, and k all score highly for the qualities active/daring.” The name of Prozac’s
close cousin, Zoloft, is an identical case of linguistic engineering. “Zoloft: Zo
means life in Greek and loft elevates the concept” (Begley 2002). Although
Prozac has been on the market in the US for almost 15 years its maker, Eli Lilly,
has refused to acknowledge several published medical studies linking the drug


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