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Educational Crusade or Product Masquerade? Exploring the Commercialization of Social Responsibility in America's Healthcare Industry
Unformatted Document Text:  COMMERCIALIZATION OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY 20 buildings, the attire of characters, and other seemingly irrelevant attributes of commercial advertisements are chosen intentionally, aiming to resonate unspoken attributes of the product. Messaris (1998) alleges, “in this sense, then, it could be said that analogy is bound to be a basic organizing principle of any well-designed ad” (p.196). Though the effect may not be consciously recognized, specific commercial elements often times deliver a nuance of meaning that resonate with the viewer psyche. Exemplifying this premise, many participants reported that the brief clip of a female character portraying a medical professional added credibility to the “Tell Someone” message. One viewer explains, Towards the end of the commercial, the doctor is standing there, describing what to do...that kind of sticks out in your mind. You would tend to listen to someone as a doctor, or someone in that kind of field of medicine... you figure they would know more about [the issue]. While medical professionals typically foster credibility, hospital buildings often ignite negative emotional responses by stimulating fear, apprehension, and anxiety (Messaris, 1998). As focus group discussants point out, through tactile modeling choices, the creators of the commercials connote more than what is explicitly said, silently conveying a threat to women’s health. In Edward Bernays’ (1928) timeless manuscript, Propaganda, the author argues a company should not sell a product, but rather market the vision that will advance consumer need while convincing consumers they are the masterminds behind the industry inspired concept. Perhaps revealing Merck’s fiscal motives, one viewer explained, The lady [said] she wanted to go home and tell someone, and then like, the next image or so later, it was the two ladies standing there. She had her hand on the [other] lady, so it’s kind of like... reinforcing [the idea] to go home and tell people that you care about.

Authors: Crosswell, Laura.
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background image
buildings, the attire of characters, and other seemingly irrelevant attributes of commercial 
advertisements are chosen intentionally, aiming to resonate unspoken attributes of the product. 
Messaris (1998) alleges, “in this sense, then, it could be said that analogy is bound to be a basic 
organizing principle of any well-designed ad” (p.196). Though the effect may not be consciously 
recognized, specific commercial elements often times deliver a nuance of meaning that resonate 
with the viewer psyche. Exemplifying this premise, many participants reported that the brief clip 
of a female character portraying a medical professional added credibility to the “Tell Someone” 
message. One viewer explains, 
Towards the end of the commercial, the doctor is standing there, describing 
what to do...that kind of sticks out in your mind. You would tend to listen to 
someone as a doctor, or someone in that kind of field of medicine... you 
figure they would know more about [the issue]. 
While medical professionals typically foster credibility, hospital buildings often ignite negative 
emotional responses by stimulating fear, apprehension, and anxiety (Messaris, 1998). As focus 
group discussants point out, through tactile modeling choices, the creators of the commercials 
connote more than what is explicitly said, silently conveying a threat to women’s health. 
In Edward Bernays’ (1928) timeless manuscript, Propaganda, the author argues a 
company should not sell a product, but rather market the vision that will advance consumer need 
while convincing consumers they are the masterminds behind the industry inspired concept. 
Perhaps revealing Merck’s fiscal motives, one viewer explained,  
The lady [said] she wanted to go home and tell someone, and then like, the next image or 
so later, it was the two ladies standing there. She had her hand on the [other] lady, so it’s 
kind of like... reinforcing [the idea] to go home and tell people that you care about.  

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