Quick! Tell someone!

By Mir
May 1, 2006

If I were a less lazy person, well, I would do a lot of things. Like exercise more, and actually get up and put the ice cream container away instead of just eating the entire thing because the freezer is so far away, and I’d get up earlier in the morning, and– Wait, I think I had a point in here somewhere. Oh! Right! If I were less lazy, I’d find the post Joshilyn wrote recently about the ridiculousness of prescription drugs advertising on TV.

I couldn’t agree more. What a way to encourage a nation of hypochondriacs to self-diagnose even more than we already do! Fabulous!

Tonight I saw a commercial that I feel tops even the evil brain-licking Lunesta moth.

The scene: A busy street, where a pretty, fashionably-dressed young woman stands on the sidewalk, peering off into the distance and looking slightly puzzled. She turns to the camera.

“There’s a common VIRUS that can cause CANCER. I didn’t know that!”

The camera moves on to a small, ethnically-diverse group of women, further down the street. Two of them stand there looking vaguely constipated while the third speaks to the camera.

“My doctor says it’s true… a virus that can cause cancer!”

On to a pair of women, practically clutching each other. By now you’re wondering what sort of street this is, because, Toto, I don’t think we’re in Stepford anymore.

“I didn’t know that a VIRUS could cause cancer. My doctor told me!”

Okay, by this point? I’ve figured out that it’s some sort of awareness campaign about HPV. All good and well. But it KEEPS GOING. Woman after woman, turning her empty doe-in-the-headlights gaze to the camera to confess that she had NO IDEA!

I swear to God, I was sure that soon enough the camera would alight on a woman who would twirl her hair around her finger while whining, “Math is HAAAAARD!”

Instead, eventually a woman wearing a white lab coat (white coats have been shown to make you smarter in 5 out of 6 studies) appears to give us the lowdown, those of us who are clearly in the middle or upper class but are too dumb to have ever
1) Heard of HPV
2) Been to a doctor
3) Been to sex ed in school
4) Thought about cervical cancer except during a commercial break during “Everwood.”

(What? Shut up.)

So this commercial doesn’t just want to tell you the incredibly SCINTILLATING and HERETOFORE UNKNOWN news that HPV can cause cervical cancer. Oh my NO! They want you to TELL SOMEONE! Quickly! Because they may not know! You may tell them, and they may respond, “Really? I didn’t know that!” In which case you totally have permission to poke them to death with one of those industrial Q-tips that are typically used during pap smears.

(I promise that the whole site is full of things YOU MAY NOT HAVE KNOWN. Like this tidbit, which I think I may have been able to go my entire life without knowing: “Part of the anus is actually outside the body and part is on the inside.” I mean, I never really gave it much thought, before, but knowledge is only power when it’s NOT ABOUT MY ANUS.)

But here’s the thing. I’m thinking, why stop the “Tell Someone” campaign with just HPV? As long as we’re besmirching the primetime airwaves with this sort of thing, I say we go WHOLE HOG. Tell someone about HPV, absolutely.

While you’re at it, could you mention that people already in a traffic rotary have the right of way over people entering? I’m pretty sure there are a lot of folks around here who don’t know that.

Oh! Also, for the love of all that’s holy, you should absolutely tell someone if they’ve got something stuck in their teeth. That’s just common courtesy.

And I can’t be certain, but I HEAR that in some very rare cases, sex leads to pregnancy. I’m not sure I believe it, myself. But check it out, and then be sure to tell someone.

Monkey would also like to tell you (and then, of course, you should tell someone else) that beans are the musical fruit.

I feel closer, now that we’ve shared. Now. Go forth and Tell Someone!


  1. chris

    I really wish someone had shared that information with me before this. I just had no idea why them babies kept popping out.

  2. patricia

    While we are sharing — can we PLEASE tell someone that the rules of a 4 way stop are NOT the order in which you arrive OR the most expensive car. They are the first person who arrives then right of way passes TO THE RIGHT. (not to the left folks — we don’t drive in the UK).

  3. Susan

    While you all are passing news along, could someone tell someone that I’m all out of wine over here?

    Thanks! That would be a big help!

  4. Amy-GO

    GAH, I hate that ad.

    My computer is fixed!! Huzzah! I just had to TELL SOMEONE! ;)

  5. jess

    My “favorite” bit on a drug ad is those for birth control that tell you that you shouldn’t take birth control if you “may be or become pregnant.” Ummmm…pretty much anyone who is having sex, unless other factors are involved, are at risk of pregnancy, birth control or no birth control.

    So sayeth a BC-baby. *winks*

    So if you you are planning to use birth control to control potential births that may result from having sex…you probably shouldn’t, according to those ads.

  6. Cele

    Or…Until you know how it will effect you, do not operate a vehicle or equipment after taking Lunestra, as it may cause drowsiness. Duh! That is like saying until you know how it will effect you, do not operate a vehicle or equipment after drinking. And these people got paid the big bucks to tell us that.

  7. the Mater

    What a pain in the anus! I just posted a witty reply to your wickedly funny post and hit “preview” and it’s gone :>(

    Er, and now I must get to work! Just to know, I hear ‘ya baby …

    Great writing – you have me ROTFLOL.

  8. Latte Man

    I am not sure what upsets me more. These inane commercials, the obvious side effect of self-diagnosis, or the fact that your doctor will listen to you say that you think you should be on so-and-so medication, and immediately writes you a script for it. Is there no sort of responsibility anywhere in the chain of events?

  9. Niki

    I detest these commercials, especially because I do not want to hear all of the potential side effects of these wonder drugs while eating. This one killed me (trust me, the people who don’t know all of this have no idea what a cervix is anyway!), but even worse is the new one for Flomax, where one of the side effects can be “decreased semen.” Really, I want my 10 year old to hear that while she’s eating her mashed potatoes. “What’s semen, Mommy?” “What’s an erection, Mommy? Will I get one that lasts more than 4 hours?” Or the one for Levitra – in case something gets in the way of you having sex for up to 36 hours AFTER you take the pill. Geesh, take it when you’re ready, not sooner! And who was in on the testing for just exactly how long it lasts? “Whoops, it’s been 36 hours and 3 minutes, and now I just can’t do it.”

  10. Bob

    I’m sorry, I’m still hung up on the ads that promise that if I drink lite beer, amaretto, or bailey’s I’ll have cool friends and hot sex with young women. Oh – and also if I use the right deoderant or drive the right car or eat the right mint or put the hair back on the top of my head or ……

    Although, the ads for ED meds have got my attention.

  11. ben



    Here’s my question: why do they put really stupid people in drug commercials? And, where can I find these people when I need to have a garage sale? (Why, yes, it is Elvis’s toilet. Really. He wrote “All Shook Up” while hurling in it one night.)

    What comedian said ‘Ask your doctor? If you ask your doctor for drugs, doesn’t that make them your dealer?’

  12. Chris

    Arg! I hate this commercial! I will do my best to stay off the soap box, but do want to point this out: one of the doe woman says, “Cervical cancer is caused by a virus” i.e. that’s the only cause which IS NOT TRUE. I know from first hand experience. The most common type of CC is caused by HPV, but not all of them and I have already heard the excuse the woman should have paid more attention to not getting an STD and she wouldn’t have CC. Gggggrrrr. Um, sorry, soap box is up now.
    Yes, traffic rules should be followed at all times…

  13. laura

    I’ve heard that you shouldn’t operate a motor vehicle while having sexual intercourse, but I’ve never noticed that it caused any harm, myself. But I felt that I should tell you that.

  14. Dana

    I just saw this SAME commercial last night and was completely baffled because this was the first time I saw something of this nature on television! My husband made the comment that these are just as bad as the Valtrax commercials advertising for herpes medication. I’m with ya…it’s ridiculous!

  15. ~Carol

    *LMAO* I totally agree…

    Now would someone PLEASE tell SOMEONE that when you hear that noise in a glass that only has ice in it that it’s empty and it needs to be filled. PLEASE TELL SOMEONE so the noise doesn’t drive me crazy!

  16. Alexa

    Also, did you know that smoking is not particularly healthy? And that you should stop your car before you get out of it, as attempting to exit a moving vehicle often leads to injury? It’s true! Ask your doctor!

  17. Ingrid

    Well, I quite recently was diagnosed with cervical cancer caused by HPV and the reality is I didn’t know anything about any of that. At first, I was incredibly outraged – because I feel I’m a reasonably intelligent woman and I had no idea about the causes of cervical cancer. Nor did I, the super genius, quite have it figured out why we should get a pap every year. Doi! So, now that I’ve been diagnosed with CC, I do some research and guess what? You cannot prevent HPV! Huh? You can wear a condom and he can wear a condom, but if any of your body parts (down there) touch, you are probably going to get HPV. There is no ‘cure’ for HPV and there apparently no way to prevent it. So what in the world are they talking about on the commercial? Tell someone that they are doomed as doomed can be!

  18. Mir

    Sheesh, Ingrid–that’s even worse! I had assumed that part of the campaign was prevention, at least. :(

  19. Theresa

    Is THAT how I ended up with four kids?!

  20. Jenn2

    What’s a traffic rotary? ;)

    And, OH MY GOD! Do you mean to tell me that’s why I keep getting knocked up? My husband swore that it was fixing fish for dinner that caused me to get pregnant. Damn him.

  21. Melissa

    I did not know that. I will have to get me one of them there white coats. But my luck, I will be the 6th person it does not make smart.;)

    Your blog is great & it has become one of my daily stops.

  22. Heather

    I just have to say that I am *so* glad I’m not the only one who does that with the ice cream. :-)


    i don’t know if it’s different in Canada than the US, but they can’t really say what the drug is FOR up here. And that leads to many conversations when I ask my doctor about drugs that will help me with menopause or birth control…

    Anyone have an aspirin?

  24. Laura

    Actually, the law here states that if they are going to say what the drug does they must also list the possible side effects. Hence the incredibly vague drug commercials where people are tra-la-ing happily through a meadow, having taking “Ziflutrexamine” or some such thing for some undisclosed itch/burn/flaccid/refluxish ailment wuthout mentioning that it causes your brain to leak out your nose. In some rare instances…

    More than you wanted to know, you say?? Hmm…

  25. Chrissy

    I hate that commercial, too. If we need to “tell someone”, we should tell MEN. MEN carry the virus too, and rarely know it because they have no symptoms and men never go to the doctor unless they’re peeing blood. Having sex with MEN carrying the virus is the most common way women get it. But, NOOOO, it’s all on our shoulders, again. WE have to be responsible and tell our sisters and FEMALE friends, because it’s only our issue. Jeez.

  26. Marti

    __3) Been to sex ed in school

    Here in the Midwest, they want to ban sex ed. and teach intelligent design. Let’s just tell all the little girls that babies and cancer come from God.

  27. Jenn

    Do you know what I found in my new issue of Glamour yesterday, stuffed into the folds of the magazine? Cards! That you can give to your friends! Urging them to TELL SOMEONE.

    And also, the card mentions that you can send e-cards at tell-someone.com! I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t rip them out. They’re good for a few more laughs, and then off to the trash with them.

  28. Knowledge is Power

    Actually, the Pap test has saved more lives than any other cancer screening test in the world. It is also important to note that a regular pap smear does not include an HPV test. The physician normally “adds” this test on when the patient is experiencing specific problems or is sexually active with more than one partner. These individuals are at greater risk of carrying the cancer causing virus. Detection of the virus allows the physician to be proactive in looking for signs of cervical cancer throughout the patients life before any abnormal cells from a regular pap smear are even found. Unfortunately, most women still avoid having the test 1. Because they don’t know and 2. Because they don’t think they need it. I hate pharmaceutical ads as much as the next person, but they are effective in getting the message across to those populations who need to know and at scaring those who think they don’t need it. Also, if you notice there is no mention of a “Drug” because like previously stated, there is no cure for HPV. However, by pushing patients to ask for an HPV test “added on” to thier normal Pap smear it only increases the effectiveness of the pap test. Which brings up another question, What is Merck getting out of this Ad if they are not pushing a Drug? Pap tests are performed by anatomic pathology laboratories, not drug companies…..Maybe their scheme is to get the patient into the doctors office so that they have a chance of prescribing some other drug..?

  29. Anne

    I could be wrong but I believe Merck is making the upcoming cervical cancer vaccine.

    And I hate these ads so much I stopped watching TV.

  30. Alan

    Merck makes the HPV vaccine that will likely be approved by the FDA in June. It’s thought that Merck will sell $4 billion dollars worth of this vaccine annually. Merck’s Tell Someone ads are priming the market so that women will want the vaccine – at $100 for each of three doses. On the other hand 4000 women die each year in the US from cervical cancer and this vaccine might prevent 3/4 of them. More than 200,000 women die each year globally from cervical cancer. This vaccine could save a lot of lives.

  31. Wanda

    How can the company Merck, tell people in the ad that sometimes HPV will clear up on it’s own??? I am a Crisis pregnancy counselor and we have been telling our clients for years that once this disease is contracted… it is for life! Yes, as the ad says, it is caused by a virus. But in the history of the world we have never found a cure for a virus ever! Telling people that this will clear up on it’s own is extremely deceaving to the general public.
    Yes, there is a way of keeping from this disease… it’s called abstinence outside of one permanent relationship called MARRIAGE! If either partner has had any kind of genital contact with another person prior to marriage, they need to be tested!
    I tell my clients that HPV scares me much worse than AIDS as it is so much easier to get, and just as permanent!
    Very frustrated with these Merck ads and commercials!!!
    Wanda Jo

  32. Mary

    Hey…..I just want a t-shirt!!!!

  33. Dawn

    It has really saddened me to see so many people making such a joke of the HPV virus and the TV Commercial. I have suffered from HPV for 16 years and await radical surgery as a result. It was such a boost to all of us ladies who live in the UK living with the effects of this virus to finally see some awareness being brought to the attention of women and men alike through media. If anyone is interested in the effects of this virus I have no hesitation in advising. Please be aware is the message, not please be scared.

  34. Abs

    I recommend women should read up on HPV. I was 25 when I found out from a regular pap smear that I had it. The doctors said I had two precancerous lesions on my cervix and I spent the next two months going to a specialist to get them frozen and cut out. I’m college-educated, middle-class and I’ve been married for years. I thought I knew about STDs and in the past I had very few sex partners so when the doctor told me I had an incurable STD, it really depressed me. Before this happened, I had thought HPV was just genital warts. I learned that HPV has almost 100 different strains, some harmless, some that cause warts and are called low risk and some like HPV 16 and 18 which are high risk and can lead to cervical cancer if not properly treated. I now have to take 2 pap smear tests a year and HPV was a concern when I had my child last year. I didn’t want to pass it on to her as well. You should also know that contracting an STD like this or herpes is also linked (though not scientifically proven yet)to having something called GBS, group B strep. GBS can be life-threatening to babies if the mother doesn’t take penicillin during labor. As the baby passes through the birth canal it can get the strep in its throat, later develop pneumonia and possibly die. The baby has to be monitored closely for the first few days of its life for signs of pneumonia. I don’t mean to scare people but I want you to know that HPV has made quite an impact in my life and though I know this commercial is backed by Merck as a business venture for the vaccine they’ve patented that treats 4 types of HPV, it is still worthwhile to get the message out.

  35. lastewie

    You know? I used to be a sex-educator for a major public health organization.

    HPV is practically inevitable if you have sex. About 80% of people who are sexually active carry it. And it can lead to CC. That’s why women are supposed to have pap smears annually. A pap smear is, by definition, an HPV test.

    Despite that, I am not all that worried about it. I get my annual exams, and do what I can to prevent STDs. I’ve not had any in the past, other than HPV. The strain I got caused genital warts. It’s not the strain that causes CC. I could have other strains, but there’s no test other than annual paps.

    It really bugs me when people use anti-sex scare tactics citing HPV. I feel acutely for people with CC, but I don’t think the answer is to avoid sex before marriage. What about people (like me) who don’t get married? Sex is a wonderful thing!

    If I were queen of the world, I’d run an education campaign about pap smears.

  36. lastewie

    Oh, and Mir? My post was not at all a pot-shot at you. I agree it’s weird that in this day and age people might not know about HPV. But my goodness there’s a lot of misinformation out there. I haven’t seen the commercial myself, but I bet it’s every bit as cheesy as you portray it! :-)

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