A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about some of the products and causes I wouldn’t touch with the business end of a bargepole. I summed up one of them by saying:
Quack medicine. That includes homeopathy. I’m not in the business of offering ill people false hope.
I’ve now run up against this Guardian article on advertising homeopathy by Adam Rutherford. His line is that, as most homeopathic products are water, they won’t harm anyone. Therefore, brand owners should be able to advertise, as long as their claims aren’t unsubstantiated. He points out:
A decent (and by “decent” I mean “good at his job” rather than “honourable”, of course) advertising copywriter would be able to make a homeopathic product utterly attractive without breaching the ASA’s codes.
Earlier in the piece he admits:
Yet another part of me knows that the trouble with this hubris is that any advertising for homeopathy would result in increased sales. Advertising misleads.
It’s these two quotes that bother me. I wouldn’t so much as sharpen a pencil on behalf of homeopathic product advertising, but I also would not like to see advertising of those products banned for unfair reasons. That said, the thought of seeing more of these ridiculous products fly off the shelves fills me with horror.
My objection to homeopathy is that I believe it offers false hope. The only benefit I see the pills and potions having to consumers is an expensive placebo effect. It reminds me of an old advertising mantra (probably misquoted) – “You don’t sell the sausages, you sell the sizzle”.
Yes, advertising misleads in that you normally emphasise the good and ignore the bad. But that’s where homeopathy differs from the other products and services I help to sell. There needs to be at least some meat in the sausages if you want me to create the sizzle.
I pity the poor suckers who buy into the quackery. But would you ban the adverts? I just couldn’t do it.