Monetising Fear

I have worked in marketing for over 30 years. I know the monster that I, and other marketers, have created. The monster is called FUD: fear, uncertainty and doubt.

To come to my own defence, I’ve only ever worked in the business-to-business end of marketing. It’s trickier to instil fear, uncertainty and doubt into a hard-bitten business decision-maker than Joe Public.  But we try anyway.  But the assault on the buying public, coercing them to take drugs they almost certainly don’t need, has been going on for years. And this has especially been the case in the so-called “developed world”. 

In the United States pharmaceutical companies dominate television advertising. If you’ve visited America (prior to 2020, when you were allowed to) and flicked on the television, you’ll have been bombarded with adverts for every kind of weird and not-so-wonderful drug.  The Americans are among the most medicated people in the world spending, per capita, twice the OECD average on legal drugs. And this expenditure doesn’t do the nation many favours. America is one of the world’s most addicted nations in terms of prescription and illegal drugs. 

Some 75% of TV advertising expenditure in the United States is by drug companies.  In 2020, pharma companies spent a vast $6.58 billion on advertising (source Kantar Media). It was a bumper year because of Covid – with the majority of Americans seeking out remedies for other chronic health conditions – such as asthma and diabetes. America’s a fat nation of addicts, making it fertile ground for drug peddlers offering spurious remedies for morbidities, co-morbidities and Covid. 

Covid, however, has been a Godsend for the FUD-merchants. Now we have visual FUD: masks, social distancing signage, and government-paid-for advertising to encourage the take-up of big pharma’s latest ruse: Covid vaxes.  America, in addition to its other endemic public health afflictions (with associated pharmacology) has a bit of a problem with asthma. Some 25 million American’s suffer with it. And yet the government’s solution to mitigate Covid risk is to mandate the wearing of masks. Although this, no doubt, helps with the sales of asthma medication and inhalers. Indeed, the global asthma drugs market size is predicted to surpass around $37.3 bn by 2030 from $20.6 bn in 2020, growing at an annual rate of 5.2% from 2021 to 2030 (Source: Precedence Research).  Handy that. 

And then, of course, there’s the lobbying. It takes work to put the FUD-words into the mouths of the politicians. But mostly they handily oblige. According to this report, “From 1999 to 2018, the pharmaceutical and health product industry recorded $4.7 billion—an average of $233 million per year—in lobbying expenditures at the federal level, more than any other industry.”  It continued, “The industry spent $414 million on contributions to candidates in presidential and congressional elections, national party committees, and outside spending groups. Of this amount, $22 million went to presidential candidates and $214 million went to congressional candidates.”

We can only surmise the levels of spending in other jurisdictions.  And, of course, it’s not merely direct lobbying that provides the words for policies, legislation and politician virtue signalling – it’s also the NGOs that are effectively in the pockets of the drug companies. And many of the drug companies are in the pockets of the NGOs – with Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust investing heavily in “innovative” pharmaceutical companies making drugs to treat, you-know, Covid and things. 

The extent of public ignorance of the manipulation that’s going on is simply staggering. In the past many of us, myself included, were of the view that Americans were clearly being manipulated. In the land of the free, we concluded, why not let them eat whatever cake was being peddled. It didn’t affect us.

But now it is. Because the same (or same different) pharma companies are now peddling their wares in new ways with the support of bought governments that are mandating their garbage medicants.  But here’s a message for them. Go sell your crazy some place else.