Nov 112010

So suppose you are a big ol’ pharmaceutical company with mega-expensive cancer drugs that you want to sell.  You’d want to make sure you always have a market for that lucrative product, right?  So you don’t actually want to cure cancer, just treat it, so adding a product that has been linked to cancer to your corporate lineup that has been linked to cancer would not be a contradiction.  Call it the circle of death–manufacture potential cancer causing products that might help create a market for your cancer treating products. As Breast Cancer Action points out, that is exactly what Eli Lilly is doing.

Eli Lilly has taken pinkwashing to a whole new level. By adding rBGH to the products they sell, Eli Lilly has completed its cancer profit circle: it creates cancer with rBGH, it sells cancer treatment drugs like Gemzar, and it sells a drug, Evista, to reduce the risk of breast cancer in women at high risk of the disease. Eli Lilly’s cancer drugs made $2,683,000,000 for the company in 2008. Its potentially carcinogenic dairy hormone made millions of dollars in the same year. Eli Lilly is milking cancer.

As part of their Eli Lilly is Milking Cancer campaign, they decided to put up billboards in Indianapolis which is where Lilly is headquartered.

The group planned to pressure Lilly to discontinue the drug by launching a billboard campaign in Indianapolis. The message: “Eli Lilly is making us sick. Tell them to stop.”Lamar, Clear Channel, CBS Outdoor and about seven other billboard agencies have rejected the ad over the past six weeks, said Angela Wall, spokeswoman for the group.

“We can’t even get a public message out there in Indianapolis,” Wall said. “Who’s holding the mouthpiece when it comes to national health?”

When officials at Lamar saw Lilly singled out, Lamar executive Chris Iverson said, they asked the health group to defend its claim.

“We didn’t feel they could stand behind their statement,” he said.

Right, that explains why rBGH has, “been banned entirely in Australia, Canada, Japan, and all 27 countries in the European Union.” As Breast Cancer Action points out, “Although there is not definitive proof that the use of rBGH leads to breast and other cancers, there is enough evidence now to take precautionary steps and to eliminate its use.”

Indeed. And when has absolute proof ever been a litmus test for billboards? Try driving down the main drag of wherever you live and test that theory out.  I let my fingers do the walking in Google images and there was no shortage of good examples.  This one was my particular favorite after 15 seconds of searching:

Yup, no question that is totally factual.  Not. Which brings us back to the Breast Cancer Action billboard.  BCA is asking that you use the image above as your profile picture on Facebook because who really needs a really expensive billboard in one mid-western city when you can post your message all over the internet instead.  So let’s help them out, add it to your blogs, twitter it, etc.

And finally, this brings me to my periodic rant about net neutrality and the importance of independent, women-positive media.  We don’t generally think of billboards as media but just like advertising in newspapers and on television and on the internet, they contribute to framing the messages we are are sold when corporate profit is the deciding factor. This morning my local paper showed up literally wrapped in a Humana add that you had to remove so that you could see the front page of the newspaper.  You couldn’t not look at it. Sure, you can turn off commercial television and radio and so on but if you want to get from here to there, chances are, you are going to go past a billboard–they are a potent creator of the public frame and when important messages like the one Breast Cancer Action is trying to share are banned, we all lose.

 November 11, 2010  Posted by on November 11, 2010

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