Belsomra wakes up a tired category


A few years ago, The New Yorker ran a fascinating story about the FDA and the long, nightmarish process Merck underwent to get approval for a new class of anti-insomnia drugs. The article appeared in December 2013 and this month, the first commercial promoting the medication arrived…with a whisper.

Unlike most sleeping pills, which knock you out (like Ambien), Belsomra works on a different part of the brain and blocks the neurotransmitters that promote wakefulness. Needless to say, in our hyper-aroused always-on times, falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up without grogginess would be a dream come true (although the list of contraindications and side-effects is enough to scare anyone awake).

Unfortunately, the new spot misses the point. It shows a woman being kept from sleep by her dog (helpfully named “Wake”) while what she really wants is “Sleep,” portrayed by her furry white kitty.

This is backwards! Anyone who has cats knows that they come alive at night, chasing imaginary prey and jumping on our faces. It’s our dogs, who snuggle in with us, often under the covers.

Belsomra is a potential blockbuster, a disrupter in Big Pharma and in bedrooms everywhere. I just wish the brand’s creativity had lived up to its very cool science.

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Too old to make excuses


A few weeks ago, Dominique Browning, writer, gardener and woman of a certain age, declared her independence from the insecurities and “annoyances” that, in her younger days, would have “knocked her off her perch.” Her new mantra? “I’m too old for this.”

I know the feeling.

I’m too old for the profession I once loved. And, to be fair, still love–for all its excesses and foolishness. I just don’t have the patience for advertising that’s poorly done, insulting to the intelligence, gratuitously loud and vulgar or just plain unwatchable. I used to say when I didn’t “get” an ad, “I must not be the target” (as though I somehow lacked the imagination to figure it out). But I think Ms Browning got it right. I’m just too old for this.

Consider these two recent crimes against creativity:

Sling TV. What is the significance of these—there’s no other word for it—fat kids assaulting old-school TV viewers in a variety of set-ups? How do these “anti-spokes-boys and girls” represent the brand in a good or persuasive way? (Who can even remember the selling points?) What client or agency would think bullying or obesity is funny? Is it a revenge fantasy for overweight individuals? “Take back TV”? Take this campaign off the air. Please.

VW diesel and “year end” sale. The former seek to dispel such “old wives tales” as diesel is slow and smelly; the latter makes sad, inappropriate puns about the year-end (rear end) sales event. Both campaigns feature a preternaturally patient salesman and four old harpies in helmet hair and braying, nasal New Joisey accents. Helmut Krone and Julian Koenig must be spinning in their graves.

Yup, too old.

And yet, there comes a campaign that restores my faith in the craft. Fiber One refreshes a tired old story—weight loss—in a sweetly humorous way, urging dieters (personified by a shlumpy shark and two Valley Girl lionesses) to give in to their instincts for dessert and satisfy their cravings with 150-calorie snack bars.

I’m never too old for that.

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