Sick and Sad, Google

pharma_industry_can_help_states.jpg Oh, boy. I recently highlighted Google’s attempt at visually whitewashing the Katrina disaster. On that one I gave them the benefit of the doubt.

This time, though, it’s pretty clear that someone at Google is overplaying their hand and their hardcore “a buck’s a buck’s a buck” attitude is showing. It’s not a pretty sight. See, over at Google’s Health Advertising Blog, an account exec called Lauren Turner recently posted her thoughts on Michael Moore’s new movie, Sicko. Her primary concern from the perspective of the biggest marketing machine on earth? Moore’s inconvenient truths might mess with Google’s potential to rake in big bucks from big pharma, so Moore really should STFU and go lose some weight.

That’s just profound, Lauren, and you’re so clearly your client’s best friend ever when you dare to publicly post drivel like this:

Moore’s film portrays the industry as money and marketing driven, and fails to show healthcare’s interest in patient well-being and care.

That mean Michael Moore. He doesn’t know — as Lauren does — that, deep down, the CEO of HCA really has a heart of gold. (It’s made from the teeth extracted from the sedated patients who couldn’t pay the exorbitant price of medical care.)

Google has an entire wing of its empire dedicated to “health advertising” — damn, Lauren, your very job description flies in the face of your logic here. Or this nugget:

The healthcare industry is no stranger to negative press. A drug may be a blockbuster one day and tolled as a public health concern the next

Right, because the problem here is the negative press, not the fact that overhyped crap like Celebrex turned out to, in fact, kill people. If only we limited the communication to healthcare funded PR and public “information” put out by the pharmaceutical companies themselves, we’d never again hear about faulty drugs or inefficient health care providers — thus, the problem would magically be sovled. Way to go, Lauren, now tell me how you’re going to solve the crisis in the Middle East with your mad logic skillz.

But Lauren’s not done with Sicko just yet:

it’s a shame no one focuses on the industry’s numerous prescription programs, charity services, and philanthropy efforts.

Take that, Michael, you fat complainer, you. If you would just have made a feature movie about that totally amazing raffle Kaiser Permanente held last year (they gave away, like, hundreds of teddybears and other neat stuff!). Or maybe a tell-all expose of the hundreds, sometimes even thousands of dollars that some of these incredibly selfless CEOs donate out of their meager multi-million dollar bonus packages to the charity of their choice each year at Christmas time; that would have been much more interesting to the average American struggling to afford even the most rudimentary medical insurance than some pointless fact-based comparison with other health care systems that work better and are cheaper than ours. I mean, who needs that?

So, now that Michael has gone and pissed on their parade, what are grief-strucken HMOs supposed to do? How does Pfizer and Merck and all those other cash-strapped and voiceless pharmaceuticals go about getting their side of the story heard? It’s not like they have already bought every politician on the Hill and spend billions every year on marketing and bribes gifts to doctors, so how do they get their message out? Thankfully, St. Lauren of Teh Google has a solution:

Whatever the problem, Google can act as a platform for educating the public and promoting your message. We help you connect your company’s assets while helping users find the information they seek. […] companies come to us hoping we can help them better manage their reputations through “Get the Facts” or issue management campaigns.

Whew. And I bet that’ll work, too. I mean, if I want to find out why I can’t afford health care or whether that new $200-a-month wonder drug that my doctor says I need is really safe and worth it, then all I have to do is go to Google, and immediately Lauren’s box of magic will “connect me with the assets” of some bloated HMO or the paid spin from a big drug company. That’ll totally work. I’ll “find the information I seek”, and Lauren’s completely objective customer will “manage their reputation”, and all will be well (of course, I’ll remain ill-informed, sick and uninsured, they’ll still be massively profitable and bureaucratic, but other than that…).

And Google? Well, not that health care is all about money and marketing and selling snake oil like that stupid Michael Moore claims, but Google will so totally make a killing as the glorious intermediary between the infallible, altruisitc health care industry and those sick, desperate suckers patients customers. Think Michael Moore might be on to something? Lauren is staking her cushy job at Google as pole-dancer for big pharma that he’s wrong.

Evidently someone nudged Lauren’s boss, and perhaps Lauren’s boss’s boss, and, well, let’s just say we’ll have universal single payer health care in this country long before she’s given a promotion out of her 6×6 cubicle at Google HQ. Lauren has already posted a follow-up that basically amounts to “so, when I made a complete ass of myself as a Google Account Rep it should be clear that it was just me being an ignorant and cynical retard, not necessarily the whole company.” Which is a pretty disingenuous attempt at distancing her company from her crap, since she spent most of her original posting singing Google’s virtues. But as a true PR hack she deftly avoids actually saying sorry, or acknowledging that she’s just a clueless PR hack. Instead Lauren takes the opportunity to lecture us all:

advertising is an effective medium for handling challenges that a company or industry might have. You could even argue that it’s especially appropriate for a public policy issue like healthcare. […] advertising is a very democratic and effective way to participate in a public dialogue.

No, Lauren, no. It’s not. Advertising is not democratic. (You should read up on it: “the biggest budget buys the biggest billboard” is not the fundamental tenet of democracy. Really.) And it’s not at all an effective way to conduct a public dialogue on an issue like health care, because — and this clearly will come as a surprise to you — the marginalized, the uninsured, the rural kids with inadequate coverage, the veterans, those most in need of a voice don’t have the same massive budgets for ad buys as the clients you’re so busy fellating Monday thru Friday at the service desk of Google Health Advertising. It may well be that you can convince your gullible johns that they’ll be able to sell their health care products and services to the masses thru this cool new internet thingie, but that really has nothing to do with promoting or participating in the dialogue this nation urgently needs to have about the dismal state of our health care system.

You seem surprisingly annoyed that Michael Moore should dare to point out the other side of the story, but as far as I can tell he’s just generating more business for you: the more he tells the truth, the more big pharma has to pay you and Google to disseminate their lies. So, rather than lament his movie, you should cheer him on — and then hope like hell nobody you love or care about gets sick enough to actually require the services of the exploitative and ruthless scam artists you work with every day.

(Found via TechCrunch and Rawstory).