A few days ago I met with a couple health messages for the public that were striking in their contrast with one another.

First, the fun one!

The newest awareness program the Canadian Cancer Society’s got out for colorectal screening is, well, quite cheeky! Get your butt seen is its from-the-hip slogan. Really. And their ads are having lots of fun trotting out every euphemism for our, er, derrière that they can think of (notice I’ve already come up with two myself here).

That’s where I first heard it, on a radio ad. Something so in-yo-face is bound to get lots more attention from people of all ages than a bunch of scrolling text describing colorectal cancer symptoms and prevention advice.

Next, the Basso voce drug warnings

Then, on the other hand, there are the drug ads I’m treated to during my favourite soap…

You’ve probably seen several yourself. They’ve been on for years. But I saw one that was just so loaded down with caution messages that I wondered who would ever want to try the drug once they’d heard them all.

The producers at least used two different modes of communication: the spoken warnings and the text appearing at screen bottom. But so much else was wrong: the scrolled text was white on a background that also was often white, and it was in ALL CAPS, SHOUTING FONT.

And then the voiceover — speaking in what Australian plain language advocate Christopher Balmford calls ‘work voice’: that basso voce list of side effects, with its series of short pauses where the commas should be. Imagine the bullet-point list if they laid it out!

I know I’m watching a soap, but I don’t need to come away feeling like my intelligence has been insulted. And what was more ironic? The drug was for people with depression. Having suffered myself, I can tell you that I would not be too motivated to take a drug where just listening to the commercial wore me out.