Fake drug, fake illness -- and people believe it!

Reuters
Feb. 18, 2007

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A media exhibit featuring a campaign for a fake drug to treat a fictitious illness is causing a stir because some people think the illness is real.

Australian artist Justine Cooper created the marketing campaign for a non-existent drug called Havidol for Dysphoric Social Attention Consumption Deficit Anxiety Disorder (DSACDAD), which she also invented.

But the multi-media exhibit at the Daneyal Mahmood Gallery in New York, which includes a Web site, mock television and print advertisements and billboards is so convincing people think it is authentic.

"People have walked into the gallery and thought it was real," Mahmood said in an interview.

"They didn't get the fact that this was a parody or satire."

But Mahmood said it really took off over the Internet. In the first few days after the Web site (www.havidol.com) went up, it had 5,000 hits. The last time he checked it had reached a quarter of a million.

"The thing that amazes me is that it has been folded into real Web sites for panic and anxiety disorder. It's been folded into a Web site for depression. It's been folded into hundreds of art blogs," he added.

The parody is in response to the tactics used by the drug industry to sell their wares to the public. Consumer advertising for prescription medications, which are a staple of television advertising in the United States, was legalized in the country in 1997.

Cooper said she intended the exhibit to be subtle.

"The drug ads themselves are sometimes so comedic. I couldn't be outrageously spoofy so I really wanted it to be a more subtle kind of parody that draws you in, makes you want this thing and then makes you wonder why you want it and maybe where you can get it," she added.

Mahmood said that in addition to generating interest among the artsy crowd, doctors and medical students have been asking about the exhibit.

"I think people identify with the condition," he said.







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