Ad Fail: Dramamine Ads Cause Air Sickness

The cacophony of new media now fully surrounds us. There is no longer an advertising free privacy. (Gosh I miss the good old days.) So we have to get used to complete lack of personal respect from advertisers. But even then there should be limits.

Here’s how the fail goes… My USAir flight to Denver today left at 7:40 am EST so that means I leave the hotel blurry eyed at 6 am with little patience for distractions and noise – including visual noise. (All this is made worse by the bad night of sleep typical for me on the East Coast.) In other words, I’m a typical traveller.

The middle seat is empty on my flight so I’m pretty relieved. Until I drop the tray after take off. Instead of the peaceful neutrality of airline decor I’m hit with a relative cacophony of color. Certainly it could be worse. But for an airplane, this is a brutally noisy ad that is really, really ugly when you are condemned to live with it for 3 hours and 10 minutes. And the surface is slick, so we are worried about that latte dumping in someone’s lap or laptop. (Dumb production of the ad physicals.)

It gets worse. The ad is for Dramamine and the message is about motion sickness. (See photo.) Now I haven’t had a weak stomach in 30 years filled with business flying. But with this ad in front of me, the suggestion of airsickness makes my stomach feel queasy even as our flight is level and smooth.


Airline Tray Noise

Even contextually this is a fail. IF I needed Dramamine, its too late. At 40,000 feet it’s hard to purchase Dramamine. And someone with a weak stomach might have spent their flight tortured by the fact they hadn’t taken it.

In the end, I was disgusted with Dramamine. And someone with a weaker stomach might end up physically sick about the ad…and fighting mad.

USAir should have refused the ad – aware of the violation of passenger space and psychology. And the makers of Dramamine should have been far wiser. But neither were.

Was this the brainchild of someone with too much enthusiasm for the mythology of contextual advertising? If so, they fully lack awareness and enthusiasm for humanity in communication.

Wallpapering our travel environment with visual noise is not good. Even escalator handrails at O’Hare have become opportunities to condemn the inmates of business travel to torture by visual noise.

This fail starts with it being Dramamine. But assuming the airlines have to sell that space, then different creative is required. The reality is that we spend about 5 seconds with most magazine ads. Here, they used that same visual power on a seatback tray we’re condemned to see for 3 hours. And it turned decent magazine creative into a crime against the consumer.

And so we can ponder: what airline seat back ads are next? Adult diapers? Diuretics? Deodorant for smelly travelers?

Trust me. It will happen. Airlines and airports have yet to show that they’ve figured out a sensitivity for their travelers. And companies like Dramamine look like they will buy anything. So buckle up. The noise has started and the volume will only increase.

Copyright 2012 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved

About Doug Garnett
Doug Garnett is an expert introducing innovative consumer products and services to market while driving higher return on innovation investment. His career has been spent in innovation and he is the president of Protonik, LLC - an innovation consultancy focused on marketing and innovation. Prior to founding Protonik, he was founder and CEO of ad agency Atomic Direct.

2 Responses to Ad Fail: Dramamine Ads Cause Air Sickness

  1. Derek Viglianti says:

    This reminds me a pest control ad on TV which simulated a cockroach crawling across the screen. It was so effective that my wife screamed, and I jumped up immediately to remove the insect, only to discover it was not real. The ad was also effective enough to ensure that I would never reward that company with my business after treating my wife that way!

    • Doug Garnett says:

      Funny how often using outrageous concepts to get attention can ensure that they’ll never hear what you have to say. Makes me think advertising would be much more effective if we all had teenagers and thought deeply about what it takes to communicate effectively with them. 🙂

      Thanks for the story…


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