Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Advil Cold and Sinus

Posted by Neal on December 4, 2004

And as the wrap-up to the posts inspired by our Thanksgiving trip, here’s one about the virus I caught while we were up at Grandma’s. The sore throat is gone, and my voice is on its way back, but I’m still blowing green and gold gunk out of my nose. At least, when the passage isn’t too congested for the chunks to make it through. When that happened last night, I looked through the medicine cabinet and found some Advil Cold and Sinus, whose label said it would relieve nasal congestion. I took some; I don’t know how effective it was, but it did remind me of one of the more annoying commercials I’d heard…

They played this one on TV and the radio a few years back, and maybe they still do. Someone talks about all the symptoms that AC&S works on, and how remarkable it is that it works not only on cold symptoms, but also on sinus pain. And then they conclude with one of the following lines:

That’s why they call it…

  1. Advil Cold and Sinus
  2. Advil Cold and Sinus
  3. Advil Cold and Sinus
  4. Advil Cold and Sinus

Which did they use? Option #1, stressing the cold, would make sense if very few medicines could reduce cold symptoms. Option #2, stressing the sinus, would make sense if very few medicines could reduce sinus pain. And Option #3, stressing the and, makes the most sense, since they’re making so much of the claim that it relieves not just one set of symptoms, not just the other set, but both sets together. Option #4, though, is a nonstarter. That would only work if there’d been some kind of ownership issue, and Advil had won out over, say, Tylenol, but that’s completely irrelevant to anything in the commercial.

So of course, Option #4 is exactly the one they use. Who cares about making sense, as long as we can stress the brand name? In fact, the fact that it doesn’t make sense probably works in their favor, because the listeners are all thrown off enough to spend just an extra second or two in processing the message. Curse you, Advil! Your plan worked only too well!

But what if the adwriters for AC&S really talked that way? What would happen if one of them went out to eat, ordered a Diet Coke, and got a regular one? “Excuse me, this is a regular Coke. I wanted a diet Coke“?

Shoot, they’d probably be the kind of people who’d say something like this when they served their kids a cup of juice: “OK, Doug, you get the yellow cup with the purple lid, and Adam, you get the yellow cup with the purple lid.”

One Response to “Advil Cold and Sinus”

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