Monday, May 23, 2011

Failed ad: cat tails

Maybe I am a stickler, one that loves things to be correct too much, but ads, news, and writings that get things botanically or scientifically really wrong bothers me tremendously.  Such as this ad for allergy medication Singulair.  Someone came up with the great idea to base an ad on 'cattails or cat tails'.  Well, if only... cattails, the plant (Typha), was allergenic (it is not or only mildly so), or looked like a grass (it does not). The photo is of a grass (timothy probably, Phleum, also sometimes called 'cat's-tail', but that is not common knowledge) spreading its pollen.  Having a common cattail plant there wouldn't have been a great design, I guess... So now, readers of this ad think that 1) cattails are allergens, and 2) look like grass, because of this miseducation from Merck.  Sorry guys, this will be one of my prime examples of lack of botanical knowledge in the advertising community. Embarrassing. 'Pinsamt', as we say in Swedish.  Would anybody put a sheep in an ad and call it a pig?  Didn't think so. But that is what happened here, but with plants.

Oh, no, it is not just this ad, I just found some more with similar issues.  They are doing the same thing with thistles (not allergens), and willows ('catkins', true, but not allergens either...).  This is like when people think they are allergic to goldenrods because they happen to flower at the same time as the ragweeds.... 

My son's allergy doctor didn't like when I asked her exactly which weeds my son was allergic too, because all she could say was 'weeds', that is what was written on the test results.  Same with 'trees', another positive allergy test.  I tried to explain to her that insect-pollinated plants didn't have large amounts of wind-dispersed pollen, so not all weeds and trees are allergenic...  Why are we letting ourselves be dumbed down in the flow of information? Isn't it better to know the truth even if it is slightly more complicated? Or am I just a cranky scientist?

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