You've seen them on TV or viewed them online. You couldn't help that they caught your eye or made your ears perk up, in spite of yourself.
We’re talking about those ever-more-prevalent diabetes commercials, most brimming with smiling faces and bundles of energetic excitement about whatever the particular product, medication or message aimed at PWDs (people with diabetes). Sometimes it's hard to swallow.
Yep, some even have catchy tunes, creative spins, or big-name actors and personalities to bump up interest in whatever's being marketed.
So what are the best and worst of these ads you've ever seen?
We have our own opinions on that, of course. Today, we’re looking back on a number of them to offer our assessment -- with absolutely no scientific backing or even "what went into that marketing?" research here... just our personal and very humble opinions on commercials we liked and didn’t like so much as PWDs.
We'd love to hear your thoughts, too!
Celebs and Diabetes Commercials: Past and Present
You name the celeb with diabetes, and they've probably been featured in a D-commercial. Some faves that stand out to us through the years include...
The 20-something pop singer and now-actor has been in his share of commercials since announcing his type 1 diagnosis in 2005 –– from his JDRF ads and general D-awareness spots, to Type One Walk campaigns and some product-specific ads in recent years.
Seven years ago, he did this pretty modern commercial for Bayer USB that had him rocking the guitar to plug the "plug and play" functionality of this USB meter (see what I did there?!), and saying "how cool is that?" This one really tapped into the younger market.
Most recently he appeared in this slick, polished "behind the scenes" commercial for the Dexcom continuous glucose monitor, but Nick certainly keeps it real in talking about his diabetes and how the CGM has helped him.
Crystal Bowersox and BB King:
We have to give props to those great music-infused ads featuring country music star Crystal Bowersox and the late blues legend BB King, both members of our Diabetes Community who have done OneTouch glucose meter commercials over the years. We're huge fans of Mr. King's music, and really loved how these two did a behind-the-scenes segment with Crystal driving to meet and play guitar with (!) Mr. King.
"Test with Confidence"
There's also this one from 2002, where Mr. King strums his guitar to market the OneTouch Ultra Meter. Not as good a commercial, but we can't argue with his talent!
Sadly, we lost this music legend in May 2015 -- a big loss not only for the musical world, but for our Diabetes Community too, where he was such a passionate advocate. RIP, Mr. King.
Mary Tyler Moore:
This actress made the JDRF her passion in life thanks to her own type 1 diagnosis at age 33, and her TV presence in D-commercials goes back many years. You can still find some 25-year-old commercials like this one from 1989 when the JDRF hadn't yet put the R into its name and was then still the JDF. Oh yes, and remember when the JDRF/JDF dubbed the 90s as the "Decade of the Cure"...? Yeah.
Of course, Mary has moved up the JDRF ranks through the years but she's still been doing some select appearances. Like this one from 2009 when she poses the question, "What Does Hope Look Like?"
Dina Merrill (from the 70s):
Another JDRF (then-JDF) commercial from even earlier -- four decades ago -- featured actress Dina Merrill, who was once dubbed "the new Grace Kelly" for her roles in 40s/50s/60s movies. She's long since turned to finance and philanthropy, but this gem of a commercial from the 70s is a classic celeb-says-so bump for the then very young JDF.
Certainly NOT in our favorites file, but how can we not mention Wilford, the original funny diabetes commercial guy who lives with type 2 and was a spokesperson for Liberty Medical? It's tough these days to find actual Wilford diabetes commercials without some parody or edited version popping up, but we were able to locate this classic spot as well as this one where he pronounces this condition in that signature "dia-beetus" way that he does.
Of course, it's hard not to smirk at this legendary spot with Wilford riding a horse and wearing his cowboy hat!
Believe it or not, Wilford is now back at it with a new company, Binson's Medical, based in Michigan. Yes, he's doing some new commercials, like this "All Your Needs" ad promoting the OneTouch Ultra 2 meter available at Binson's... and guess what? He still doesn't pronounce diabetes correctly! See that commercial here.
One more noteworthy ad in this category comes from the awesome D-Dad Alan Thicke (whose adult son was diagnosed with T1D as a kid) who is most well-known for his role on 80s TV show Growing Pains. The main commercial of his that comes to mind was for CCS Medical Supply about no-cost meters delivered right to your door and starts out (embarrassingly) with: "Attention! If you have Diabetes!"
Accu-Chek: Dance-Worthy and Empowering!
Honestly, I believe my most favorite diabetes product commercial of all time is the Accu-Chek Nano commercial. I can't even count the times I've busted out in full dance moves to this D-tune when it's come up on TV or online. Go on, try to resist!
Other Accu-Chek products have their own commercials too, and there are even other versions for the Nano -- such as this 2009 commercial for the Aviva Nano meter that has a James Bond seductive spy feel to it. As you watch it, be sure to count down like the commercial does -- 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...
This one is empowering, though I can't say it's particularly dance-worthy like the Nano spot. Still, it does have a good beat to it and Roche does a good job with here its slogans of "We've Got You" and "Innovation That Matters.”
The Worst... Or Not So Impressive
No, not the ED ones. And no, not the nerve pain or other complication commercials.
Though, we do have to give kudos to Cedric the Entertainer for doing a "Step On Up" commercial with the ADA about diabetic nerve pain. He actually “gets it” because he watched his dad suffer from this painful complication.
So in principal, we’re not bagging on those complication-targeting product ads where people seem flustered and unhappy thanks to D-Complications (aren't we all?). Rather, most of the commercials out there seem to be overly cheerful and positive in promoting the latest and greatest diabetes tool – as if each were a magic bullet for solving all our D-problems.
Seriously, the message seems to be that by taking this med or using that meter, we'll be just as blissful about life and diabetes as those paid actors who are scripted to smile and pose with family and friends doing happy things... right? Who are these companies trying to fool?! Why can’t they be a little more realistic about the gritty truths of diabetes?
Case in point:
- Most recently, this "floating Toujeo insulin pen" caught my eye on TV – which is officially called the "Journal" commercial. Yep, it’s a Sanofi ad for their newest basal insulin that's supposed to be better than Lantus and was approved in early 2015. But honestly, it's a kind of freaky seeing everything in paper-like form, including the featured woman’s dog, her husband at home and other people. This one could actually give you nightmares!
- The Januvia "Lovely Day" Commercial: We have all the classics in this DDP-4 product ad from Merck -- woman walking up stairs, man watching his kid's baseball game, husband and wife cooking together, and woman walking in a park. Of course, the incredibly long list of fun side effects always compliment these happy people so well...
- A similar ad by AstraZeneca "All Walks of Life" ad promoting Farxiga, which is a once-daily SGLT2 inhibitor just approved in 2014.
- Victoza Ad by Novo: Hey, it's not insulin. And it's different than a pill. But wait… it’s still injectable, so why do they look so happy?
- This commercial by Tri-State Medical is aimed at Medicare folk and features the generic-looking On Call Vivid Glucose Meter (say what?!). It features a guy in a lab coat talking, a demo of someone checking their BG, and a white van that's probably transporting supplies... (wait for it)... right to your doorstep! And what's up with this pyramid of boxes and supplies behind him?!
Oh, and let's not even get into the worst diabetes infomercial of all time... from Spring 2015, when Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee starred in his own "diabetes cure" ad and dubbed himself a "former diabetic." This was a pitch for Barton Publishing's so-called "Diabetes Solution Kit." (see also: snake oil shill). Huckabee 's done the same miracle pitch about cancer drugs, and has taken a lot of flack about it even though he continues defending his efforts.
Meter Boy on D-Commercials
For some perspective that might differ from our own, we reached out to Brad Slaight, who's not only a fellow type 1 but is also a Hollywood-insider himself as an actor, comedian and writer and has been keeping tabs on these diabetes spots for many years.
He tells us that what catches his eye these days is simply the plethora of these diabetes spots, compared to previous years. That, and the simplicity of the content.
“I have noticed in the insulin pen commercials they show people at restaurants placing their pens on the table next to their plate. Appetizer? Dessert? They also regularly talk about the goal of an A1C, which is important but it seems like that's all that matters. Most, if not all, are geared for type 2s, which is obviously a much bigger market. Personally, I would like to see more PSA's educating the public but there's no money in that."
Brad happens to be "Meter Boy" in the Diabetes Hero Squad (and a regular cartoonist of ours here at the 'Mine), and he tells us that he'd like to propose some fun, PSA-like ads created to push diabetes awareness with the frequency of commercials pushing a particular product or medication. One idea he plugs is this one, created by himself and his partner in the D-Hero Squad:
Not a bad idea, Brad! We can definitely get on board with that.
So that’s our view on the Best and Worst Diabetes Commercials, as we see them!
What do you all think?