Selling Incontinence

Depends, the adult diaper folks, bring you “Drop Your Pants for Underwareness .  

Here are the key sound bites.depends ad

Sound Bite #1

[Depend is launching]

“A cause to support the over 65 million people who may need Depend underwear.”

In one of the Ads, Depend Brand Director, Liz Metz, tells us she’s dropping her pants in the name of her father, who has prostate related incontinence.   She invites us to “join the cause” and drop my pants for someone who is important to me.

The Facts  

Incontinence in its different forms is widespread among US adults. Much more common in women the incidence increase with age. Roughly 18 million people have daily urinary incontinence.  Added to the roughly 34 million people who need to urinate with increasing frequency or urgency, it is a big problem that can cause people to curtail activities, socially isolate and suffer depression.

Sound bite #2

“It’s time to bring it out in the open. It’s time to drop your pants for underawareness. “

The Facts  

Incontinence is not something we readily discuss with our doctors. Of all the men and women who experience incontinence unfortunately at least half don’t tell a doctor about it.  In fact, 1 in 4 women over 40 suffer from some type of urinaryincontinence, but most are too embarrassed to talk about it. 

Sound bite #3

“…because wearing a different kind of underwear is no big deal.”

But it’s not the garment we really should be talking about here, is it?

 Important facts dropped along with the pants:

What the Depend scampaign deftly fails to mention, or even allude to in a tiny print messages, is that Incontinence is a symptom of something.  And that critical message is artfully masked by the focus on outing incontinence, dropping your pants for someone (echoes of ALS bucket challenge here), and asserting yourself by wearing novel briefs.

It really wouldn’t have taken much video scripting time to include an accurate central message about incontinence.  This is – a thorough physical exam is the only way to identify the kind of incontinence a person has and to identify the possible remedies.

One of the reasons that a medical exam is so important is that urinary incontinence can be caused by many different medical problems:

Overactive bladder muscles

  •  Damage to nerves that control the bladder from diseases such as mul­- tiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease
  • Poor overall health
  • Diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, arthritis
  • Back problems
  • Obesity
  •  Blockage from an enlarged prostate in men

And common medications – diurectics, estrogen, benzodiazepines, tranquilizers, antidepressants, hypnotics, and laxatives.


And there are a fairly long list of possible treatments – controlling fluid intake, bladder training, pelvic floor exercises, biofeedback and medication, lifestyle changes, losing weight, reduced alcohol or caffeine consumption, etc. In severe and very bothersome cases there is surgery.



the adult diaper market (a few years ago I’d trip over those words) has caught up to the baby diaper market in the US.  Adults in the US spend close to $20 billion coping with urinary incontinence per year, and an additional $12.6 billion on urinary urgency and frequency.  Women are the largest consumers (86 percentof total sales in the incontinence market.) 1 in 3 women over the age of 18 suffer from some sort of sensitive bladder or incontinence, but only 1 in 9 actually use a specialty adult incontinence product today.

With close to 80 million baby boomers currently 65+ it’s the perfect market for products we would never have thought we needed 30 years ago. 316 million adults over 70 years old in the world today (1 in every 3 requires protection) – China being the biggest potential market.

So, I’m ready to drop my pants with the best of them for a cause that advances the public’s understanding of health. I propose we all drop Depends an email urging them to tweak their message ever so slightly – to do their part to advance the public’s understanding of the serious, life disrupting problem.

“Drop your pants to show support for all those who suffer for incontinence.  It’s time we started talking to our doctors about incontinence ..Oh, and BTW, Depends may be able to help.”

Oh….BTW – Depends have just launched a new TV ad  Silhouette Active Fit

6 replies
  1. Jen (Janani)
    Jen (Janani) says:

    This is certainly a current campaign in NYC, as I saw signs being refaced in the subway stations on the upper west side a few weeks ago.

    Moreover, I went to Roosevelt Island to coach tennis at the center there, and I saw the ads in women’s locker room.
    Despite my awareness of these ads, I agree with Laressa. They company has definitely recognized it is profitable to get the audience of NYC commuters to see the ad and then get them to contemplate if they potentially would benefit from using the product. The company does not necessarily have the need to discuss what actual medical conditions reflect the need for the development of the product in the first place. However, I think there are some member of the audience that would do research in to product prior to purchasing and perhaps for the slim but existent portion of the audience, there can be a take away that the company is actually spreading awareness about incontinence. I could attest to be one of those people. I am not sure if there is a public health validation for raising that type of obscure awareness in their ads, but it certainly as interesting outcome.

  2. Laressa
    Laressa says:

    Depend is not trying to tell you that if you have incontinence, you should talk to your doctor because how would they get a profit? The ad is about making it okay for adults to wear diapers because they are unnoticeable, and everyone with incontinence is wearing them. The fact that it could be a symptom of a disease does not concern them at the moment, incontinence is a problem of its own and they help you with that by providing you with diapers that fits like an underwear! Makes you love capitalism does not it? I see a demand, therefore I supply. It doesn’t matter whether I know what could be causing it or not, telling you to talk to your doctor about it, does not fill my pockets…

  3. sandrine konan
    sandrine konan says:

    I feel like this is crazy. This advertisement will be more profitable to the companies that manufacture the diapers not for those who have the problem. I know many people who have this problem but they actually try to find out what caused the incontinence. Often time, they will go through a lot of medical examinations and they still dont know exactly the cause therefore they dont know how to fix it. Beside, how uncomfortable is a diapet? I mean for an adult. What type of ad is that? Diapets may be helpful but people will go more depressed with the idea of wearing diaper even if they are adults and they are not at this stage anymore. We should all think of something better to help those people with incontinence.

  4. ora exacta
    ora exacta says:

    Am aflat aceasta pagina, dupa ce am cautat despre Selling Incontinence pe
    Google. Se pare ca informatia dvs e foarte valoroasa, mai ales ca am
    mai gasit aici si despre ora, ora exacta, lucruri interesante si folositoare.
    Mult succes in continuare!

  5. Sukramlis
    Sukramlis says:

    I agree with Yomaha Gordon and suggest that there should be a different way to tackle this problem. It is inappropriate for people to drop their pants in public despit whatever the health issue of one maybe. Let’s think about the younger generations out there,what would be the message we would be sending to them if everyone start dropping their pants because of a health issue. This behavior would have a negative impact on our younger generations.

  6. yomaha gordon
    yomaha gordon says:

    Interesting article! this issue deserves more attention, however people dropping their pants in public as a promotion idea is a bit much. I think this issue needs to be addressed in a different way

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