Do you believe that anyone genuinely cares about you at all? Oh sure, your family basically cares, so does your sweetheart and maybe even a few friends, but on the whole it’s every man or woman for themselves. We know this and more or less we’re okay with it.
This sort of cynical detachment is not an unfounded emotion. We are constantly bombarded by manipulative advertising messages day in and out, telling us over and over how much we are loved and cherished and appreciated but only if we open our wallets wide and pony up for whatever new and improved thingamajig is currently being pushed at us. This kind of conditional love can even start to get to ad junkies like me. It sort of just hurts to feel used.
So it was the strangest thing when a new ad by Tylenol sliced through the disingenuous patter and touched that part of me still slightly gullible enough to believe that somehow a monolithic, faceless and likely heartless company could actually, possibly, care even the tiniest bit about me.
In the ad there was a stark white background on which a series of smiling faces sporting happy voices popped in and out, each declaring with confidence how seriously they took their jobs at Tylenol. And these were not Hollywood faces but real people faces. They said each of their names and made it clear they really did work for Tylenol and hammered away as a group at the idea that “they” were Tylenol and that “they” did indeed care. They said they cared about their work, they said they cared about their jobs, and yes, they said they cared about me. And the crazy thing is I believed them! It could have come across as sort of BS-y but it didn’t. It just seemed somehow sincere.
Now, I recognize Tylenol does have a real advantage over say, an outfit like Home Depot. When Home Depot says they care I could truck on down to their store and come face to face with one of their orange apron adorned staff who not only doesn’t care, but could also be so dirt stupid dense as to lose a battle of wits with one of the hammers in aisle four. Having thousands of front line employees means the advertising claim that Home Deport cares is constantly at risk of being disproved or, even worse, ridiculed. It’s one thing to say you care, but when after saying so you act like you don’t its even worse than never having brought it up in the first place. Tylenol only has to make sure they manage to put the right pills in the right bottles. Beyond that, they have me right where they want me.
I was so into, and sold on, the idea that Tylenol cares about me that an interesting thing happened. I began to focus so much on Tylenol in my head that I remembered that whole tainted Tylenol scandal back in the eighties. Remember the one that led to our new world of tamper-proof packaging? And when Tylenol reeled me by going on about promises and trust and how seriously they took their jobs, this dark day in their history rushed to the front of my mind. I’m certain Tylenol did not want me to remember that, but maybe they did. After all, they did manage to come through it more or less intact.
And the crazy thing is that even remembering the scandal didn’t bother me because I responded so strongly to the promises being made by the people in the ads. Their realistic goodwill won me over because they really seemed like they meant what they said.
Now, I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years and I really did try to do my best most of the time. That’s not to say I didn’t screw up a reservation here or there or drop something in the fry vats that shouldn’t have been there, but on the whole I did want and try to do a good job.
After seeing this ad I believe that Tylenol people really are trying extra hard to do things right. They must be trying to do better work, if for no other reason than my certainty at the presence of posters and memos displayed all over their offices pumping this particularly advertised notion of responsibility. It has to have some effect on folks.
Now if only we could just get those generic drug bastards to take their jobs as hardcore-serious we might finally be able to medicate ourselves with confidence, and at a reasonable price to boot.