I watch tv online so I have a different experience of commercials than the normal tv viewer.  I have found online ads focus on one product or theme for the duration of a show and that they are a little more intense than the quick succession of broadcast television ads. The most recent advertisement I have been bombarded with is one about HPV. It begins: What if this happens or that happens? "What if you meet someone? What if he likes you too? What if he gives you HPV? What if it never goes away? What if you get cervical cancer?" And so on, you get the idea, an ad created to cause mass hysteria in the female population. I am not sure if it is even an ad for anything, maybe the vaccine against cervical cancer. All I know is that this ad is perpetuating fear and there are a whole lot of other things that cause cancer, disease, and death that I have never seen an ad like this for. Being a woman it especially angers me because of the amount of side effects many drugs for women have that are not taken as seriously as this in advertising, probably because they would not sell the product if they were. What if you meet someone? What if you get on the pill? What if it gives you heart disease or a stroke? Why isn't this also an ad? Ads like the HPV commercial only divide people and breed distrust. Yes, sex has risks. And yes we need to be aware of them, talk to our partners about them, and make sure that we are comfortable with the risks that we take. And yes, there are consequences with any action, but as with any consequence, we take the steps necessary after that to return to health and maintain it. Sickness does not necessarily mean death, but death is something that happens to all of us. I don't think that ads like this help to foster dialogue about responsible behavior. I think ads like this encourage people to live fearfully, to not talk openly about their health, and to mistake living in fear for being healthy. I understand that information about disease does need to be distributed, but if we are allowing people who profit from the sales related to disease to disseminate this information, are we really getting an accurate picture of reality?

On a similar note, this is a great article about children and pharmaceuticals.
Inventing Disorders: The Psychiatric Drugging of Children