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A View from Rekha Murthy

'Ailment Placement': The New Product Placement?

We’ve all heard of product placement. But ‘ailment placement’? That’s what I think I saw on last Wednesday’s “America’s Next Top Model.” The modeling hopefuls were asked to gracefully field rumors at a mock press conference promoting a new line…

  • April 24, 2005

We’ve all heard of product placement. But ‘ailment placement’? That’s what I think I saw on last Wednesday’s “America’s Next Top Model.” The modeling hopefuls were asked to gracefully field rumors at a mock press conference promoting a new line of ANTM clothing. The judges, playing the role of “journalists”, asked one girl about her bisexuality and another about picking her nose.

What surprised me was that one contestant was asked about her… Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The disorder also appeared in subtitles on the screen. It seemed an odd rumor to choose, especially as the nose-picking accusation, also strange, was not accompanied by a formal diagnostic label.

A friend who’s a pharmaceutical sales rep told me it’s quite possible that I witnessed a cousin of product placement – what I’m calling ‘ailment placement’ until I learn the term of art. The IBS mention (and ensuing conversation about flatulence) might be related to a new marketing push by an IBS drug approved not so long ago by the FDA. I won’t name it because this is speculative at this point.

After an extensive search online, I couldn’t find other examples of ‘ailment placement.’ Paranoia, or heightened awareness? The possibility is particularly interesting at a time when some drug companies have been accused of overly aggressive marketing campaigns.

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