Procter and Gamble build a market for eating disorders

by Carrie McLaren, WIMN's Voices

Just saw this ad from a new campaign promoting the laxative Metamucil and nearly lost my lunch. Procter & Gamble, which markets Metamucil, has repositioned the brand and is now pitching it with the slogan, “Beautify Your Inside.”

Now, I’m not the gambling type but if P&G isn’t targeting anorexics, bulimics, and other weight-obsessed women with this campaign, you can have my house. Notice how the ad is clearly directed to a much younger audience than the typical (over 60) user of laxatives. Also, the top two questions on the Metamucil website FAQ (what kind of carbs does the drug contain and how many?) are clearly directed to weight-loss junkies.

Metamucil’s desperation is all the more clear in that laxatives have fallen out of favor with some "pro-ana" (that is, pro-anorexia) types, partly because they can cause weight gain. Pro-Ana Nation, for instance, warns:

Don’t take laxatives. Laxatives can cause serious medical complications, and you actually gain weight by taking them. There are natural laxatives though, found in foods like prunes and grapes. Also, there are certain sugar-free cough drops and candies that produce a laxative effect because of the sugar substitute used in them.

What does Metamucil’s brand manager have to say about the overuse of his product by people with eating disorders?

Mr. Podiak says the company isn’t worried because Metamucil isn’t a drug but a natural fiber supplement… "There’s no long-term negative effect" of taking it, he says.

But according to the Metamucil FAQ:

Metamucil is indicated for treating occasional constipation… We recommend you discuss with your doctor the use of Metamucil as a fiber laxative on a long-term basis.

Of course, you could always just listen to the marketing guy instead.

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