Historical Advertisements

When it was first introduced to the drug market, there were several issues that affected the sale and advertisement of the birth control pill. There was significant debate over the safety as well as the morality of oral contraceptive usage for years after its FDA approval in 1960. The pill was not marketed directly to consumers in its early stages of sale, but instead it was advertised to doctors who would then prescribe it to women. Because of these issues there are not substantial amounts of advertisements that can be found from the early decades of sale.

One of the few early advertisements is for Envoid, the first brand of the pill to be sold. It is marketed toward doctors rather than the women who will use the product. The ad is rather simple, containing a small drawing of a women, the product name and slogan, and descriptive information regarding the function and benefits for the doctor’s patients. The creators of this advertisement perhaps had in mind that their customers were doctors with their own existing knowledge about birth control methods, and who would most likely not be using the product themselves. Therefore, in order to be persuasive, logos and ethos are more prevalent than pathos in the ad. The logos exists in the description of how the regulation of menstruation is beneficial to women, and the ethos in the scientific evidence for the effectiveness of Envoid. There is an element of pathos when the ad tells physicians that their patients will be grateful if they are to be prescribed this product. But there is a lack of visual pathos hat might be evident in an ad directed at the women who use the product.

What is interesting to note about this ad is that it does not promote the contraceptive aspects of the pill, but instead focuses solely on the fact that it can delay menstruation for the purpose of “convenience” and “peace of mind.” The ad completely ignores the primary purpose of the pill, possibly due to the large number of people who were against the prevention of pregnancy in its early stages. Doctors of the early 60s who had strong moral views about birth control would have been difficult to persuade into prescribing Envoid using the rhetoric surrounding pregnancy prevention. While this ad provides a limited amount of insight into the actual function of the product, it does provide insight into the social context surrounding the introduction of the birth control pill. There existed stigma against the pill and marketers had to find ways around that to successfully promote their products.

The advertisement that came up most frequently in searches is for Ortho-Novum. This ran in 1993, decades after the first sales of the pill, yet still one of the earliest ads directed at women that were easily found in records. The focal point of the ad is a photograph of pills laid out in a circle next to the line, “We’ve come full circle since 1960.” This acts both as a way to grab the attention of the audience as well a form of ethos. The circle of pills is a recognizable image because it resembles the way that these pills are packaged in the circle that tells women when to take the pill. This also establishes ethos for the company by saying that it continues to consistently what it did in 1960, which is provide an effective form of birth control that also provides additional health benefits. The differences between this early 90s ad and the 1960 ad are quite noticeable. With the change audience, there is a change in the rhetoric and the method of marketing. The Ortho-Novum ad includes no discussion of the chemicals, the dosage, or the scientific explanation of how the pill works. It instead advocates for the benefits that this pill has to offer women and presents in a way that would be easy for any non-physician to understand.

What this advertisement also accomplishes is a look into how the social contexts of the 90s was different from that of the 60s regarding the pill. The Ortho-Novum ad is able to discuss the contraceptive benefits primarily because the stigma against birth control had a less overwhelming presence socially. From the beginning the 1993 ad mentions that the pill “changed women’s lives” and gave them “reproductive control.” By the 90s, women had for some time been speaking out and using language such as reproductive control to fight the legal and social battle over birth control. The advertisers are using language that will resonate emotionally with women who can relate to the idea that they deserve to have control over their own bodies.

A third ad, from 1996, also contains both visual and verbal elements that act as pathos directed at women. This ad for Ortho Tri-Cyclen contains the headline “A birth control pill that’s in tune with your body.” It also features a painting of a bouquet of flowers the covers a large portion of the page. This can be interpreted as an appeal to women’s belief in their right to reproductive control. The product is promoted as a pill that is in tune with a woman’s body, as opposed to those who are against birth control who are not in tune and do not show respect toward a woman’s body. The flower seems to be an attempt to represent nature and promote the idea that this product is natural, rather than a drug made in a lab, and works naturally and safely with the body to prevent pregnancy. This ad reaches out to women by exploiting what women are most drawn to when it comes to birth control using pathos.

Work Cited

G.D Searle & Company. “Envoid.” Advertisement. Obstetrics and Gynecology 16 Nov. 1960. PubMed. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

Ortho Pharmaceutical Corporation. “Ortho-Novum 777.” Advertisement. Vogue 1 Mar. 1993: 266. Proquest Historical Newspapers. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

Ortho Pharmaceutical Corporation. “Ortho Tri-Cyclen.” Advertisement. Vogue 1 Nov. 1996: 210. Proquest Historical Newspapers. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

Watkins, Elizabeth Siegel. “How the Pill Became a Lifestyle Drug: The Pharmaceutical Industry and Birth Control in the United States Since 1960.” American Journal of Public Health 102.8 (2012): 1462-472. Academic Search Complete. Web. 29 Oct. 2014.


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