Your life or your health – Polish medicine ads

Decoy’s second post on Polandian. The man cannot be stopped…

As an absolute beginner in Polish one of the best ways I have found of building vocabulary is ‘word-snatching’ while watching television. I pick out the few words I recognise in order to try and work out the context of what is being presented on the screen. It tends to work in real-life conversation situations too, although it doesn’t help me put together grammatically correct responses — but that’s a story for another day.

However, watching advertisements for medicine on Polish television have provided me with many moments of laughter, confusion and disbelief, in about equal measure.


They say that laughter is the best medicine and when it comes to Polish ads for medicine, there are some that never fail to raise a smile for me. In particular, when there is an ad with a disclaimer.


Apap Noc — because pain is different at night… apparently

At the end of most ads for medicinal products, the narrator will reel off the required disclaimer saying something along the lines of “Use of this product should only be done with doctor’s advice at potential risk of damaging your health or your life”. However, the Polish reading of this had me intrigued. It always ends “…twoje życie lub zdrowie,” which immediately conjures images of a rogue tablet dressed as a highwayman harassing the sick. “Your life or your health!” as opposed to the more traditional “Your money or your life!”


Your money or your life!… or your persistent chesty cough


I have to admit that my ‘word-snatching’ method doesn’t always work as well as it could, resulting in some confusion on my part. A prime example occurred while I was watching an ad for Magnes Forte (a magnesium based concoction of some kind). In my haste to understanding, I misheard part of the ad. The female presenter discusses this wonderful pill with a doctor in a studio. Both manage to use the phrase: “Jaki magnes,” which my word-snatching efforts unfortunately reported to my brain as: “Jaki Madness!” Having seen the ad a few times now I would actually prefer the presenters to break into the words and moves of “Our House” rather than hear another word about the wonders of magnesium. It confuses anyways…


One of the more recent advertisements I have noticed is for a flu-fighting product called Theraflu. Their USP (Unique Selling Point) is the claim “Theraflu – numer 1 na świecie.” Number 1 in the whole world? That seems like a big claim to make. I wonder what methods they used to prove it. I have two theories. Either, a) the company that produces the medicine did an exhaustive world-wide survey of all flu-products, cost no object, to conclusively prove theirs is the best, or b) some guy said the tablets were okay, someone else agreed and from there it snowballed until the marketing team said “Let’s say it’s number 1 in the world and add a disclaimer that we haven’t really checked this out to confirm it.”


Medical trials — you’re doing it wrong

Having said that, the possibility of watching the Medicine World Championships to find the real number one medicine would make for riveting viewing. Can’t you just imagine the excitement as doctors in white coats run around the track, in order to then fire a pill at a target, going for gold? It could be the Rollerball for this generation!

An alternate view:

I should say, though, that I’ve also seen ads for medicinal products in the United States and they probably top Polish ones for hilarity and incredulity. Towards the end of US ads for tablets, the narrator recites a disclaimer, but in this case it focuses strongly on potential side effects – while a joyful actor bounces around in the background enjoying life thanks to the miracle drug. I swear* I heard an advert once for an aspirin product that included the disclaimer “Side-effects can include pregnancy, dizziness, head-aches, diarrhea or death.”


Rutinoscorbin Plus — because they couldn’t be bothered to put the plus stuff in the first time round

This is as good a time as any to say “Na zdrowie!” and to hope that you never find yourself in a situation where you need to worry about the disclaimer.

* Disclaimer – The author may or have not have heard these words and may, in fact, be using liberal amounts of literary licence. By reading this disclaimer you agree to forfeit any possible to claim incorrectness and, furthermore, you agree to be harassed by a giant tablet pressuring you to choose between your health and your life.

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14 thoughts on “Your life or your health – Polish medicine ads

  1. If I believe I’ve being chased by a giant tablet… is there a medication to treat that?

  2. I also notice that I’m mixing tenses. What medication can I take to fix that?

  3. uratroll says:

    yeah, I know that you don’t have special night medicine on your monkey-island …


  4. island1 says:

    ‘Monkey-island’? :)

  5. island1 says:

    Apap ostatniej nocy?

  6. Begruntled says:

    If you continue trying to pick up Polish in this way you risk concluding that Poland is a nation of hypochondriac pill poppers.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Which wouldn’t be totally untrue.

  8. DeCoy says:

    Well, I also aim to word-snatch while watching football on Polish television, so I run the risk there too of concluding that Poland is a nation of ‘snajpers’ (strikers/forwards) or ‘stopers’ (defenders) who commit ‘faule’ for ‘zółte lub czerwony karty’.

    I’d like to think that medicinal advertisements are not my only reference point, but rather only one of the more interesting ones.

  9. daa says:

    hey troll. haven`t you heard that this “special night medicine” is actually pharmaceutical companies` scam for hypochondriac pill poppers that would believe in anything? start reading more serious articles brother and try to control your emotions a bit.

  10. Justine says:

    Ok, it’s somewhat funny – and I’ve read many times Poles are hypochondriacs. But what’s funny in “night-medicine”? We have it in Canada too, it’s perfectly normal.

  11. Jeannie says:

    I can attest to the “alternate view” for side effects: US ads on tv usually always claim death at the end. By the time they’re done listing all the side effects, you realize it would be better to just have the actual disease.

  12. What I would give for a cynk and selen pill. They only have separate zinc or selenium pills in GB. And they don’t have magnesium AT ALL, and just imagine what it does to my pressure… ;( Oh happy people in the vicinity of good WMC suppliers!

    Great job, Author!

  13. island1 says:

    I confess I wrote the picture captions and not Decoy. My point was not country specific. I’m sure ‘night’ medicine was the invention of a multinational, not a Polish idea. I’m just confused about the whole idea of medicine that works at night. Surely biochemistry is the same regardless of the time of day?

  14. Justine says:

    Hmmm…not that I know something about it, but two things that come to mind is that the dosage may be different (because night medicine may have to last longer) and “sleepiness” as a side effect may be less of a concern which might allow some changes in the composition.

    Or it’s just a marketing gimmick :)

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