Abilify’s Bathrobe: The Joe Camel of Anti-Depressants


The first time I saw the Abilify ad, I thought Saturday Night Live’s monologue had just finished.  There was no way it was serious…

I am fortunate not to suffer from the crippling effects of depression, but when I saw this cartoon, I felt insulted for the millions who do.  It’s tough enough to have to admit that you’re at the mercy of this syndrome but to have a pharmaceutical company display its complexities with an animated bathrobe, like a possessed Linus’s blanket, is wrong.

Not only does it perpetuate the “loafer/just get out of the house” stereotype of depressed people remaining in their bathrobe all day it trivializes the nature of the disorder, it dumbs-down the entire disorder.

James Heaney wrote a great analysis (link) of the use of pastel colors, the female narrator and other Madison Avenue tactics designed to sidetrack the consumer from the rather terrifying side effects of the drug itself.

Perhaps each of the side-effects might have its own animated character if they were really being fair:

Some side-effect pals of the Abilify Bathrobe might include… (link)


  • An increased risk of stroke and ministroke


  • High fever, stiff muscles, confusion, sweating, changes in pulse, heart rate and blood pressure


  • Increases in blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) can happen in some people who take ABILIFY.


  • Weight gain


  • Difficulty swallowing which may lead to aspiration or choking


  • Lightheadedness or fainting when rising too quickly from a sitting or lying position has been reported with ABILIFY


Apparently Direct-to-Consumer spots like this can only run in New Zealand and the United States. This type of DTC advertisting, really got going in 1997 with Claritin ads.

Another version of the ad morphs the scary bathrobe into a traveling sink-hole, similar to the road runner’s portable pit.


These con-jobs have been running for over two years now, but there’s no outrage similar to the investigations of the infamous Joe Camel campaigns, luring children into smoking.

joe camel3

Until, in 1997, the battle-plan was forced into retirement due to the famous evidence in the memo:  

The use of Joe Camel was an attempt to “‘youthen’ the brand…with the ‘funny’ Camel playing a key role in the advertising.”

The Center for Disease control reported in a study from 1989 top 1993 that: 

“…teenagers’ buying patterns for Marlboro and Camel over a four-year period corresponded to changes in brand-specific promotional spending and not to fluctuations in the brands’ overall market shares.

Perhaps Abilify is aiming for the same audience as those who fell for Joe’s cigarettes. 

Perhaps they are counting on the lure of the cartoon to make them ignore the scary side-effects the same way the surgeon general’s warning has been so effectively ignored through the decades.

Don't look here!

Don’t look here!

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About Kevin Walsh

Kevin began MyMediaDiary.com in 2013 as an experiment that was as simple as "What's a blog?" and ended up becoming a forum for fellow writers. He's been a high school teacher for 28 years and worked as an administrator and instructor in colleges for 10 years since then. Contact him at: kevin@mymediadiary.com He is also the producer of the web-series and blog, www.DiggingDetroit, founder and producer for MMD Productions at www.mmdphotovideo.com which offers quick, professional photography, video and multimedia solutions for individuals, organizations and businesses. His high school media production text, "Video Direct," has been used in 40 states--and he occasionally still sells a few. He is the current president of the non-profit DAFT (Digital Arts Film and Television) which sponsors the Michigan Student Film Festival. He lives in Royal Oak, Michigan, is married to Patrice and is tolerated by his two kids Aidan and Abby who have all graciously allowed him to write about them on occasion.

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