03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Most Depressing Ad of 2009


The current TV ad for SeroquelXR is so depressing it is hard to watch. One full viewing was enough - after that it was zapped by the remote after the first treacly musical note. I found the ad so disturbing that later I went to the AstraZenaca site so I could make sure that I was not overreacting. I wasn't - second after drawn out second (an inexorable 90 seconds) of people literally fading into the background. I have to give it to the ad agency - they certainly captured the feel of depression. The monotone drone of the narrator lists dozens of side-effects - many of which sound more dire than the bipolar condition the ad is portraying. Nothing like emphasizing despondence during the holiday season (and just try getting an appointment with a psychiatrist at this time of year).

I support using pharmaceuticals to address mental health issues - and I gratefully use them myself - but I am appalled by ads that sell brand-name medications direct to consumers. I pay a psychiatrist a significant hourly fee to work with me on finding medications that work for me. Neither the psychiatrist nor I need to watch a commercial to make an informed decision.

Pharmaceutical companies are entitled to make a profit and thank goodness they are willing to invest upfront money to work on providing better solutions for all of us - but there is something institutionally sick when an ad foments depression to sell a solution for that depression.

My friend killed herself two years ago this December - she was bipolar and possibly Seroquel could have helped her. But watching this Seroquel ad was not going to help her. It is more likely that she would have decided that the woman getting off the couch at the end of the commercial, still bathed in the pattern of the couch upholstery, was about to pull a Sylvia Plath.

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