Remember Speedy Alka-Seltzer, the little animated character with an Alka-Seltzer tablet for a body? He was a friendly sort, but for some reason he had a real phobia about water.
Maybe you remember the animated Kool-Aid pitcher, whose job was to convince kids of the fun of consuming flavored sugar water in great quantities.
Or how about Punchy, the cartoon beach bum who went around asking folks, “How about a nice Hawaiian Punch?” If they answered in the affirmative, and they always did, he punched them.
Ah, those were good times. Back then, our animated TV pitchmen were cute, fun and, sometimes, non-violent.
But times have changed. With the exception of the Geico gecko, I’m hard-pressed to think of a cute or funny anthropomorphic salesman or saleswoman. The Pillsbury Doughboy isn’t cute. He’s annoying and, frankly, pretty kneady.
Today, instead of an adorable little fellow made of antacid tablets, we have a trash-talking wart. Instead of a hippy dippy dude pushing punch and punching people, we have a cigar-smoking guy made of mucus — and his extended family — setting up house in our sinuses.
And instead of a dancing pitcher full of delicious Kool-Aid, we have a giant big toe doing battle with a scuzzy-looking little monster, aka toe fungus. The giant big toe even has multiple outfits, including boxer and tennis player. It’s Big Toe Barbie.
Yes, animated body parts are a big part of Big Pharma’s advertising strategy these days. This isn’t a completely new development. We’ve all seen allergy medicine commercials featuring giant talking noses.
And many years ago, even Alka-Seltzer ran ads featuring an animated stomach, complete with arms, legs and two segments of intestine coming out of the top like antennae.
But lately, the drug companies have increased the use of animated body parts to sell prescription drugs. They also have increased the gross-out factor.
One ad campaign shows an agitated animated bladder always spoiling some poor woman’s fun by dragging her to the restroom way too often.
If this bladder has managed to leave the woman’s body and is walking around, why doesn’t it go to the restroom by itself and let the poor lady enjoy her activities?
I’ve also seen an animated prostate gland that resembles a talking walnut. That’s nutty.
But the all-time champ for worst animated TV pitchman (or pitch body part) has to be the big bundle of bowels seen in the commercials for a drug to treat irritable bowel syndrome. It’s an animated intestinal tract. It’s pink, with intestine arms and legs, two eyes (polyps perhaps) and an open intestine for a mouth.
This colonic creature, known as Gut Guy, has to leave his seat at the football game due to a sudden attack of diarrhea. He even puts his intestine hands over his intestine rear end as he rushes to the restroom. Shouldn’t he put one hand over that open “mouth” of his, too?
Believe me, as someone who suffers from Crohn’s disease, I am well aware that this is a real problem for many people. I am not making fun of this or any other medical condition.
But I have to wonder if a walking intestine is the best way to convince people to “ask your doctor if XYZ is right for you.”
When I see Gut Guy on TV, I don’t even remember the name of the drug. All I can think is “Ewwww!”
Should this trend continue, one has to wonder what might come next. Ernie Earwax? Thyroid Man? Itchy the Hemorrhoid?
Sound ridiculous? Maybe. But if someone had told you back in 2011 that five years later there would be a TV commercial featuring a big bundle of bowels, would you have believed him?
And let’s not forget the real sufferers in this whole affair. I’m talking about the poor guys at the football game who have season tickets next to Gut Guy. Talk about your bad luck.