I could never ever work in advertising. A combination of cynicism and disbelief at anything I ever see in an ad would make me a difficult employee!
There is a very real gap between the truth of diabetes and what we see in advertisements for diabetes products. I frequently find myself shaking my head in disbelief at the way diabetes is portrayed.
This is what a stomach using an insulin pump looks like. That is my stomach (apologies if you are eating, drinking or just looking). Those dots are the ghosts of infusion sets past in various stages of healing. There is also probably some tape residue stubbornly stuck to my skin. Pretty (gross), isn’t it?
This is what a stomach in a pump ad looks like. Magically, any hint of previous infusion sites have disappeared.
This morning, here is what my meter announced my BGL to be. (Hashtag: fuckoff)
This is what the reading on pretty much every box and poster of BGL meters looks like. (Hashtag: bullshit)
CGM graphs in real life look like the trajectory of rollercoasters with mountainous highs and cavernous lows, while the slick promotional materials show straight lines, nicely fitting in between the upper and lower alarm limits.
People in advertisements for diabetes paraphernalia are always outdoors, happy and rolling down hills, big smiles plastered on their faces. They wake up looking well-rested.
Real people with diabetes may spend time smiling and happy (I love rolling down hills – especially at this time of the year and getting all covered in Autumn leaves), but I’m putting it out there and saying that their glee is not because they have just done a BGL check. Unless the result is 5.5mmol/l. Each and every time. (See about meter photo. There was no smiling at that!)
I get it. No one wants to see my stomach on an ad for insulin pump therapy – that’s not selling units of product! But surely there needs to be a middle ground somewhere. I would like there to be an occasional BGL reading of over 15mmol/l on a poster for a meter. Because it happens. It’s not the end of the world and it doesn’t mean the meter is crap. And a stomach with a few pock marks from old infusion sets doesn’t reflect the quality of the infusion set. It reflects reality.
Diabetes isn’t pretty. It’s an ugly, scary and pretty un-fun thing to live with a lot of the time. That doesn’t mean that I spend most of my time in a ‘pity me’ funk, but I do admit – quite honestly – that it is shit at times. How about we aim for a bit of honesty and truth in diabetes advertising? Telling it like it is doesn’t mean we are weak or showing defeat. It’s just being authentic.