Oh, “Canada”!

The PhRMA misadventures reminded me of something I’ve been meaning to cover for nigh on six months, this little Glaxo ad (click for big!):

Let’s unpack this, starting from the bottom:

  • The drugs were junk. Not much to say here. (The FDA’s test results and the accompanying press release are online.)
  • The credit card was processed in St. Kitts. Suspicious, but doesn’t really tell us much. After all, VeriSign, the $6B company that controls .com, hawks this very service (see FAQ: I am a U.S. merchant interested in processing offshore in Bermuda, can I do this? Hint: Yes.)
  • The Web server is in China. Easily the weakest argument of the bunch. My site is hosted in California; the domain lives at a Canadian registrar. Can you spot some technical difference between this North American-based offering and, say, The Modest Mr. Pech‘s, which is hosted in Hong Kong on an IP that reverse-resolves to a Bulgarian-registered hostname? Thought not. That’s the whole point. The Internet is the Internet.
  • It’s not clear where they’re “based.” Fair enough on the evasiveness, but what does “based” really mean these days? GSK itself says they’re “[h]eadquartered in the UK and with operations based in the US.” So I guess their HQ isn’t a base.
  • The postmark and return address didn’t match. Ever receive an Amazon package that wasn’t shipped from Washington? Spooky!

Now hold on, John, you might be saying. Yes, each of these things could have a legitimate explanation, but how likely is it that all of them would come together? Aren’t you cherry-picking comparisons?

Certainly! But at least I admit it. GSK, on the other hand, buries the single most important fact of this entire ad: all of these events were set in motion [a]fter receiving a spam e-mail….

If they’d run an ad with a headline such as: “With Spam, What You Don’t Know Might Kill You” I wouldn’t even bat an eye. That would be alarmist yet honest. In fact, they could even use one of their own lines: “Where did all these medicines really come from? And what exactly is in them?”

But no. While there are real problems with ordering drugs online from any source (including domestic), the drug companies prefer to shoehorn the message into their chosen narrative: we can’t trust Canada.

One Response to “Oh, “Canada”!”

  1. Simon Says:

    Isn’t it tradition to blame Canada for what goes wrong in the US? I say this with 3 incidents in mind:

    1) Mad Cow Disease – Niki assures me the mad cow came originally from Texas. There were almost certainly mad cows in the US, but its a little easier to blame them on Canada, as France did with the UK. My suspicion is that most countries probably have a couple lurking, its just some get caught.

    2) The New York power blackouts the other year. Didn’t they try and blame Canada for that one?

    3) 9/11 – Wasn’t there a claim that they came via Canada?

    I could be proven wrong on any of the above, so I’m just throwing them out for discussion.

    My thoughts are that this is a negative GSK campaign. Don’t buy from our nearby competitor (Canada).

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