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March 22nd, 2004

Altovis

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Memo to the fine people marketing Altovis: YOU ARE DUMB.

Actually, now that I think of it, you're probably not dumb. You're probably very, very clever, albeit evil. You're blatantly taking advantage of the idiocy of the general populace. But I can't start this off with "Memo to the general populace: YOU ARE DUMB", because then nobody will think it's a new one. So you get hung on the hook.

See, Altovis is the ultimate proof that America is a nation of drug abusers. In just a few short years, the culture of prescription drug marketing has grown to astonishing proportions. You can't go five minutes without seeing an ad for something that makes your dick harder, makes you able to stand other people, helps you breathe, whatever. They all have three-syllable names*, and after two years, they get promoted to three syllables plus two initials.

You get two types of ads. In one ad, pretty people with unspecified problems have their unspecified problems solved because they asked their doctor about Zamfirim. They are now able to walk through sunny fields and hug their children and pet their dogs, thanks to Zamfirim, and, eventually, once-daily Zamfirim XP.

In the other ad, they actually point out that agoraphobarthritorabies is horribly mangling the quality of life of thousands of people each year, but thanks to once-daily Zamfirim XP, pretty people can now walk through sunny fields, hug their children, and pet their dogs with only a small risk of dry mouth, erections lasting longer than four hours, liver problems, and zombification as compared to sugar pill.

But where does Altovis, the putative subject of this article, enter into it? I saw their ads this past weekend on the Food Network. There's two of 'em, they're almost identical, and they air, inexplicably, back to back. In each of them, a narrator discusses the symptoms of fatigue, and how it's a growing problem in today's busy world, leaving people just too damn tired to hug their pets, take long walks through their children, and pet sunny fields.

In one ad, it's a guy talking about fatigue, and all the images are of office work. In the other ad, it's a woman talking, and all the images are of housework. All the words are the same though, as well as the conclusion that a daily dose of Altovis will fix it.

Altovis has a three-syllable nonsense name. It comes in a plain box, sans-serif fonts, tiny round pills in foil-backed plastic bubbles. It's offered in 28-day "cycles". And it's... not a drug.

It's an herbal supplement. Specifically, it's exactly the same kind of ginseng, vitamin, juice bar, organic co-op hippie stuff they've been selling for YEARS.

But now it's Altovis, the once-daily treatment for fatigue, with its own website made up to look like all the other prescription drug websites, complete with fuzzy picture of a Pretty Person hugging a baby and a small child who looks like the spawn of a Grey Alien and a 70's game show host. Go look at it. I bet you can figure out the URL.

This is how insane we are. It used to be, if we needed to be duped into taking our vitamins, all they had to do was add sugar to them, color them orange, and shape them like a dinosaur. But we're adults now, and have put away our childish things, and must be fooled in adult ways. They're not vitamins, they're NUTRACEUTICALS. Swear to God, that's the company putting this stuff out, "Wagner Nutraceuticals, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Berkeley Nutraceuticals".

But my favorite bit on the website is the Success Stories. After three short paragraphs detailing how Altovis has helped a mom (Stephanie), a professor (Roger), and a partying sales rep (Bo) ditch coffee and lead healthier, happier lives, they happily point out that "Success Stories are dramatizations of user results and not actual consumer testimonials."

Yes, what better way to instill trust in your customer base and get them to take your magic pill every day than to claim on the very same page as your lies that your lies are lies?

But I bet it works. 'Cause there's a whole heaping pile of DUMB in this one. And there's no pill to cure that. Yet.

* Except for the few who don't. Basically Paxil, Procrid, and whatever gets mentioned by the first three people to e-mail me about it. You know who you are.