Friday, November 12, 2010

Kitchen darwinism, and other things I learnt from prime time advertising.

So, there I was sitting in front of my television minding my own business, when I was suddenly assaulted in the face by an advertisement for some form of household cleaning product.

When it was done, the ad left me with two facts:

1. A single bacteria can become two million overnight
2. Their product could kill 99.9% of bacteria

This, needless to say, raised several questions and concerns in my mind.

Who cleans their counters before making dinner? You cook, you eat, then you clean up. If there are a million bacteria on my counter, and I kill 99.9% of them, 1000 will survive. So tomorrow, when I go to prepare dinner, there will be millions of them again. Their product is useless.

In fact, worse than useless. You know the 1,000 survivors? They survived because they're immune or resistant to this cleaning product's "active ingredient". So tomorrow, the rallied bacterial troops will all be descended from that resistant strain. Use this product over and over, and you gradually weed out all the weak and vulnerable microbes. You accelerate the natural selection of bacterial evolution. You're helping to breed a Microscopic Master Race, who will soon begin rounding up the friendly bacteria, and herding them into ghettos.

Whereas, if you just used hot water and detergent, you will still be removing them from the area (they'll be taken alive then rinsed off down the sink) but any survivors will be a random cross-sampling of the bacterial population, with no Wolverine-like powers of regeneration.

This is not just my regular paranoia. This is happening all the time. A similar process (but with antibiotics) is how MRSA has become such a threat.

The hullabaloo over MRSA has died down a bit in recent years, but it's still quite deadly. The problem, I think, was that it had some very good P.R.; the media was calling it "The Superbug" which, frankly, makes it sound awesome.

"Super" is good. Superman, Supermarkets, Superbowl. These are all things that are better than regular men, markets and bowls. If they wanted people to fear the Superbug, they should have gone with a more threatening sounding name. "The Megabug" would have worked. Either that or "Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus" but I doubt most newspapers would have been able to spell it.

Another product, but a related one, was a hand-soap dispenser with an infra-red sensor. So you can have hand-soap without having to touch the "germy" surface of the dispenser. I know I'm not the only person who looked at that and thought, "Hang on. Surely anyone who touches a soap dispenser is only seconds away from washing their hands anyway?"

1 comment:

  1. You're absolutely right about the importance of proper prefixing. If we'd heard that Optimus Prime was beating up someone called "Supertron", we'd have no idea who the good guy was.

    You've also got to account for the vitality of filth for humans: even if their megaproduct did safely eliminate 100% of all bacteria, you'd end up with humans who'd have to swim through the stuff at all times lest a random bug utterly devastate their tissue-paper-grade immune system.

    Which IS a great way to sell more detergent, true, but a little short-sighted.