new Abilify commercial is here!

Illustrations interest me, because I enjoy design and I also used to be an editorial cartoonist. So when I saw that the new Abilify commercial (see above) was an animated illustration, my curiosity was piqued, but not just because it involves no real people, but more by the company’s decision to ‘use’ certain ‘people’ in its commercial even though it’s an illustration. After all, as someone involved in studying sociology, I, by nature, start dissecting parts of , well, anything, including this ad.

It seems that the featured character of this advertisement is, as usual, a white female. We later find that she is also married and is a mother. I understand that the company (Bristol Myers-Squibb/Otsuka) would tailor the commercial to their target audience, but why does the main character–and its family (not to mention the doctor), always have to be white? In a way, the company is making an assumption that people who can actually afford this drug tend to be white (and in a ‘stable’ family household), because a 30-day, 10mg supply costs $600 retail. And why does the main character always seem to be a mom? I’m not pointing this stuff out just because I’m not white or a mom; I’m just happening to see a long trend in psychiatric medication ads that have consistently featured a white mother as the one needing these medications. Are moms in need of more psychiatric medication than others?

Another thing I noticed about the commercial was the placement of the “black blob.” Even after she takes Abilify and gets all better, the black blob shrinks but still seem to be hanging around. What does this mean? Does it mean that depression never really goes away, that it will always be hovering around her, just waiting to claim her livelihood again? It’s kind of a depressing thought to realize that once you become depressed, you’re never fully recovered.

I have nothing against Abilify—I take the darn thing. But advertisements for it and other meds intrigue me. At least it’s not that creepy wind-up doll that Lexapro uses on their ads….


Update: listed the credits to this commercial illustration. Thanks!
Director: Neil Boyle
Animators: Mike Shorten, Geoff McDowall and Sam Taylor.
Assistant animators: Alan Henry, Ange de Silva and Ed Roberts.



41 Responses to “new Abilify commercial is here!”

  1. Matt B., Point well taken. Thanks for giving me your analysis of this lovely commercial.

  2. Hey there, I got your blog from another blogger I follow so I hope its okay. I really like your blog and have found it interesting thus far. I like the Abilify add you did. I am on it, and have just about reached the max, 30 mg. on 25, now just waiting on the Canada mail order to arrive, cause like you said, even with insurance, that crap is way to exspensive. But I am just not seeing results. I am still just as depressed, off/on suicidial feeling, sad, etc. So, I am not so sure its for me. I am glad you added those clips. I liked watching those and seeing that I am not the only one who feels that way. I hope you don’t mine me following along. It was Bipolarmanic – Bipolar in Brisvegas that I follow is were I got your link from. You are more than welcome to follow mine anytime if you wish. Mine is just, well probably more so, nuts as anyones lol! But it is what it is, and thats why I blog. :) Good Post!

  3. Stephanie, Thank you for reading my blog! I’m glad you found it! I will definitely visit your blog—-love the title to your blog. I hope you find something that works for you, which i know is easier said than done.

    Btw, I also live in the south (in Tennessee).

  4. wow! I am shocked!!! Normally I only find people from another continent on here lol!!!! I CAN’T beiieve I found someone from my own state on here!!! Thats just too much!!! I need a moment………….. (tear, tear….. sniff, sniff)…. okay…. I am okay now. ROFL! J/K No, but seriously! It just seems to be unheard of. LOL! SWEET!!!! YAY!! This rocks!

  5. I think the voice in the Abilify ad is from Kristine Sutherland, who played the mom on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Does this voice seem familiar to anyone else??? It’s really been bugging me.

  6. Stephanie, I totally know what you mean! I was quite surprised when I noticed that you’re not too far away from my town. I do wonder why it is that we always end up connecting with people who live in other continents…. Anyway, I’m glad we’ve connected! Now we can talk about stuff like Cracker Barrel :)

  7. I agree that the voice is a ringer for Kristine Sutherland; I am pretty well convinced that it is her. I’ve watched an awful lot of BtVS not to recognize that voice!

  8. This commercial absolutely sickens me. I did a google search just to see if anybody else out there had noticed how self-indulgent and manipulative this commercial is. The white woman in the commercial refers to her symptoms as “my depression” as opposed to simply “depression” so many times in this commercial, it’s as if she is referring to a prized possession. The implication is that she can never shake her depression, and it is just a shameless manipulative ploy on the part of this already absurdly rich corporation to make even more money at the expense of suffering people everywhere, regardless of their income. “My depression…” what a crock!

  9. I agree. I was folding laundry and had my back to the tv. I immediately thought “That’s Joyce!” :)

  10. Why is her “depression” blob taking notes along with her? Are they trying to say that not only do you never get rid of depression, but that it’s also a sentient entity that shadows everything you do?:

  11. I like the commercial.

    I do not think it is racist. It is only appealing to their target demographic. Would it have been racist if the lead character had a darker complexion or have been a single person?

    I do not know if the medicine is effective. That is not the point of analyzing the message.

    The depression as a blob is also effective. I liked the “hole in the ground” as a great metaphor. The “ball and chain” is also understandable.

    “My depression” is completely understandable as well. This is personalizing the experience by saying that everyone’s depression is different.

  12. J Johnson, thanks for the comment. Yeah, I did wonder that myself about the blob taking a seat next to her and studying up on depression. That might be the oddest part of that commercial…

  13. Thanks for publishing this; I find this commercial really intriguing. It’s great to see others asking the same questions that I’ve been asking. The way they personify and anthropomorphise depression is really novel. Having the “character” stay present throughout the commercial, and take notes during the side-effects listing(!), both seem to make people really notice the ad. That says something right there.

    About the race/gender issues, I find that corporations almost never make decisions based on anyone’s personal biases. The bigger the company, the more this is true; when billions are at stake, every decision will be calculated to, as best as possible given the information they have, a) avoid litigation, and b) maximize profit. If you notice a consistent racial, marital status or gender trend in some product’s commercials, you can usually bet there is a similar demographic bias in the potential customer base.

    I did a little digging, and according to government statistics, it turns out that there is a *huge* gender and race skew when it comes to depression. Women report or seek treatment for depressive episodes about twice as much as men do, whites do at about 8 times the rate of blacks, and married people do about as much as single, widowed, divorced and separated people combined. If there is one single demographic most likely to desire this product, it is married, white females.


  14. In regards to the question about the little black blob just shrinking, I’ve been dealing with depression for years and when I was on medication (I’ve figured out how to deal with it without meds now, being chemically happy and feeling ill all the time is no better than being depressed) I noticed that it felt as if I still knew how I would react to things were I not medicated, so I still had that nagging depression there, it was just easier to ignore with the meds than if I didn’t have them.

    In regards to the voice potentially being Kristine Sutherland, that’s how I found this blog actually, I was trying to find out if anyone had confirmed the voice actor or not.

  15. I didin’t notice the commerical until I had mentioned to a friend that some days I feel as if I am in a hole. Then up pops the commercial. Since you mentioned the white thing, I looked at it in an opposite view–Were they indicating that only white people are depressed? I never noticed the race of the characters until I read your comments. That could be because I was so amused that the commercial had captured how I had been feeling.

  16. i KNEW that was Joyce right away! lol

  17. Regardless of all of the critiquing and analysis, it’s a darling commercial. I don’t care if the lady is black white or purple. What difference does THAT make?

    Stop being so nit picky…honestly.

  18. As a person who has depression, I found the “depression blob” very funny and a very accurate depiction! At least it made me laugh!

  19. Robin, thanks for the comment. I do agree that the commercial captures how it feels to be in a depression. But I hate acknowledging that depression just stick around like the gray blob does on this ad.

  20. Cynthia, thanks for the comment. I understand what you mean, that we should just look at it for what it is and leave it alone. But the thing is, the marketing people that made the ad did think about all of those things that you might see as ‘nit picky.’ It’s just a fascinating observation to make. I’m not trying to ‘hate on’ the commercial, but I do think it’s important to take note of what kind of decisions the ad executives made in order to create this commercial. Also, I take this medication and used to be an illustrator (editorial cartoonist), so I just took a little extra interest in it….oh, and being a sociologist just makes it impossible to leave stuff alone.

  21. Is anybody familiar with the comic strip ‘For Better Or For Worse’? Lynn Johston is the artist and writer, and this Abilify commercial’s animation is VERY similar to Lynn’s drawing style. I was just wondering if she had any connection with the creation of this ad’s animated characters?

  22. Sounds to me like voice of actress Patricia Clarkson.

  23. Every time I hear this commercial, I immediately mute it. I cannot stand the repeat of “my depression” over and over and over again. My take on this? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know she is talking about “her depression”. Why would she talk about anyone else’s. Its redundant and too long. I have all sorts of psychological problems and I am taking several meds for it. I have tried so many kinds and combinations, but it never completely goes away. Depression and other psychological illnesses are mostly hereditary and cannot be cured. I know as for me, I can only make it tolerable, which is nearly impossible.

  24. I could’ve sworn the voice is Ellen Pompeo from Grey’s Anatomy

  25. The shadow blob represents a real intity. Shadow beings. The commercial is part of elite domination involving cooperation with dark intities refered to by some as evil. The comercial psycologically makes a statement that you sacrifice to evil overlord type beings to keep them at bay and off your very life as their mission in the first place is subtile destruction. On the way to your death they want to either control you or feed off of your fear. They have a hand in creating that fear. I disagree that there is nothing wrong with the commercial. See it for what it really is.

  26. Yes, that definitely has to be Kristine Sutherland doing the voice of the woman taking Abilify. The second I heard it I knew it was her. She has a very distinctive slight lisp and I’ve seen way too much Buffy not to recognize her.

  27. I love the commercial, it is one of my favorites. I always feel bad for the cloud because it seems that even though the cloud went to the doctor too, it still is now even more depressed.

    Just saw the brand new one tonight where the cloud is now a bathrobe and wow, does it look so sad and depressed at the end of the commercial. Poor depression bathrobe cloud. I like you.

  28. I love the commercial, it is one of my favorites. I always feel bad for the cloud because it seems that even though the cloud went to the doctor too, it still is now even more depressed.

    Just saw the brand new one tonight where the cloud is now a bathrobe and wow, does it look so sad and depressed at the end of the commercial. Poor depression bathrobe cloud. I like you.

  29. They have another ABILIFY commercial, that depicts a light-brown skinned, possibly Hispanic or Latino,who is about to go to work, but the blob is still there. Yes, it could imply that depression would never really go away, but this antidepressant helps knock it down over time. It’s not “Quick and Instantaneous”, like NyQuil or Advil. This is some long-term ailment, therefore it has a medium-speed med. Also, i like the drawing style of this commercial. It seems so peaceful, like a clean mix of Disney and 90’s Nickelodeon.

  30. I must echo what RareButSerious wrote…’s not racist or sexist. Major depression, or at least the pursuit of treatment, is phenomenally higher amongst white than blacks, and women much higher than men.

  31. Did you wonder why the fictional cartoon doctor pulls down a screen to project a video of him listing the medical disclaimers?

    Seems like there may be a subtle explanation for the use of the screen. The advertising agency is exploiting “deceptive framing” to get around so-called “white coat” rules in advertising. The medical disclaimers are not being presented by a doctor, or a fictional representation of a doctor. Rather the commercial is pushing into an inner reference frame to give a double-fictional representation of a doctor, which somehow does not run afoul of the FTC or FDA.

  32. great—jew cartoon- doctor telling people what pills to take// too cheap to pay an actor?????

  33. I think the voice is Milla Jovovich

  34. I thought this was an interesting read. I still say its Buffy’s mom Joyce too. lol but anyways… As for the rest. This is one of those conversation blogy type thing that agravates me in a way. Its always about race every time I read something someone has to throw in the race card. Just except the commercial as an ad. If you are depressed dont spaz over a med ad. & as for the “my depression” everyones depression is different! come on people think about it. & as for the women being more depressed! as a woman you darn right! it is a hard job trying to deal with motherhood, husbands, life, work, & oh stupid people lol. we are emotional creatures plain & simple. For the depressed ones I hope life gets better for you just take it one day at a time. Thats all we can do. Happy Life Everyone :)

  35. Incredible points. Solid arguments. Keep up the
    great work.

  36. Yes, the family in this animated cartoon very much resembles the charcters in the cominc strip “For Better or Worse” created by Lynn Johnston. She should file a lawsuit.

  37. Extremely useful, look forward to returning.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: