Flight of the Arthritic

It’s hip, it’s new – it’s a new hip!

I’m approaching the age and condition where health-related commercials are catching my eye. I’m not elderly, nor even close, but I am a little weather worn, particularly in the joints.

Arthritis is a growing concern as baby boomers start coming apart at the hinges. New replacement joints of nearly every kind have been around for some time, and now the focus is shifting from “can we successfully replace joints?” to “how do we expand our market?”

As competition in any budding technology grows into place, evolution has it that processes existing must somehow change. The processes of manufacture, for example, must become “better, faster or cheaper”. The marketing process changes in stride with the gradually more informed and discerning target. “What do I want in an artificial hip?”, marketers tell us to ask.

Johnson & Johnson’s hip-replacement star DePuy Orthopaedics, Inc. is marketing its product with a brilliant commercial seen by the Observer on CNN. I tried to find the commercial online to no avail. It’s brilliant because of its simplicity, timing and imagery.

They never show pain. Nor “before”. This was a technique used by Bush in pro-war speeches: “freedom and democracy” the destination, “hope” the vehicle. Pain and suffering is not a good selling point.

When telling us that success of the replacement will depend on factors such as weight and age, they show an elderly, obese woman, who clearly was a success, with images of happiness and dance. Colours are light and bright, being both sterile and uplifting. White is clean, bright is happy.

The most telling moment of the commercial, and just cause for the Metaphor Observer, is the final, closing shot. Out of the blue, the commercial brings in a gracefully flying seagull. Slow motion, as if almost gliding, its presence filling half the screen.

Legs are the wings of the human. They are what propel us, and give us our freedom. Run away = take flight. And gliding is cruising, a pace equated with comfort and time. Just what a good, well-funded retirement should be. Though hawks glide, they don’t glide by the sea, like wealthy retired people who like living by water and taking cruises. The seagull is white and not allegorically considered threatening – however if doves were gliders, I’m sure the seagull would’ve been bumped.

This commercial is well worth seeing. Its gentleness ensures gentleness under the knife, its target defined and approached with surgical precision. By closing with the metaphor flight is freedom, they bring home a message to those who are grounded by arthritis: free yourself with a new hip.

Leave a Reply