Join our Facebook group
Twitter bird

Television Commercials and Public Service Announcements Featuring Nurses

Dos Equis


Tag Body Spray--Gillette


Dr. Lung Love


Emerald Nuts


Polish tourism

Elmo on vaccines

Slim Jim

Russian vodka




Johnson & Johnson commerials

Also see our page on Advertisements (non-televised)



Elmo, so good on vaccines, not so good on nursing

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Elmo, Nurse JaneApril 17, 2015 -- Today, Sesame Street character Elmo and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy teamed up in two public service announcements to promote vaccinations. The 30-second version emphasizes that vaccinations are safe and that they keep us healthy--an urgent message in the wake of the recent measles outbreak. Unfortunately, the three-minute version includes a 30-second interaction with "Nurse Jane," who appears to give Elmo a vaccination. Jane is dressed professionally, with a white coat and stethoscope. But there are many problems. While the spot makes a gentle joke of Murthy's many titles and credentials (we hope the Sesame Street audience is impressed by his "MBA"), the nurse is introduced only as "Nurse Jane"--no surname, no credential, no position. Murthy provides good information about vaccines and germs. But Nurse Jane shows no knowledge of anything except how to give the shot and then apply a little bandage with cute red and white hearts. She utters a total of 17 words. When Elmo asks if the shot Jane is giving will hurt, it is Murthy who answers and deftly distracts Elmo by encouraging him to sing, so Elmo does not even notice the shot--a classic nursing move. Sylvia Trent-AdamsAnd while Murthy is authoritative, friendly, and funny, the Jane character seems amiable but a bit dim, like a low-skilled handmaiden who performs simple tasks while the physician does the patient education and public health policy. In fact, nurses are autonomous, college-educated health experts (with surnames!) whose scope of practice is notable for its focus on public health and patient education. One example is the U.S. Public Health Service's own Chief Nurse Officer, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, RN, PhD. The PSA was produced by the Daily Dot, written by Evan Weiss and Matt Silverman, and directed by Silverman. We have urged the PSA creators and the Department of Health & Human Services to pull the three-minute spot before it further damages nursing--and public health--and then to eliminate the degrading nursing element. Unfortunately, that has not happened. But we remain in discussions with them about working together in the future to create public health media with more positive depictions of nursing. more...and see the video...


All the costumes

Subway's naughty nurse Halloween ad is not so fresh

Subway naughty nurse commercialOctober 2014 -- A new television ad for Subway uses a naughty nurse costume, among others, to encourage U.S. customers to dine at the sandwich chain so as to be able to fit into sexy Halloween costumes. In the ad, a young female office worker urges two colleagues not to eat burgers for lunch, but instead to emulate her Subway choices, because Halloween is coming and they must "stay in shape for all the costumes!" She proceeds to demonstrate, donning a quick series of mostly naughty costumes which she helpfully labels as "attractive nurse . . . spicy Red Riding Hood . . . Viking princess warrior . . . hot devil . . . sassy teacher . . . and foxy fullback!" The nurse outfit isn't the naughtiest ever, but it is a ridiculously short, flimsy dress. Of course, as usual, it's a lighthearted "joke," and there is irony in the ad's presentation of the costumes. But that won't stop viewers from internalizing yet another naughty nurse image, yet another tired fusion of female sexuality with the traditionally female profession of nursing. Decades of these stereotypical images, in the aggregate, contribute to an atmosphere in which decision-makers and the public don't take nursing as seriously as they should, with the result that nurses continue to struggle for adequate resources and respect, and ambitious career seekers of both genders hesitate to choose the profession. We urge Subway to get a little fresher in its advertising. more...and see the commercial...



Slim Jim murseAugust 2013 --  In recent months ConAgra Foods has been running video ads for its "jerky snack" Slim Jim that feature a self-identified "murse" distributing the product in a hospital waiting room to men suffering from different forms of "male spice loss." That malady is the subject of a broader ad campaign ostensibly aimed at helping men who have chosen to forego accepted macho pursuits in favor of weird, vaguely feminine activities like yoga and matching outfits. That is, the ad campaign is aimed at selling jerky to young males who might actually fear such an absence of traditional maleness. For nursing, the ad is surprisingly complex. The term "murse," used at least as early as 2003 on the sitcom Scrubs, is basically a cute contraction of "male nurse." And like that term, it may imply that men in nursing are not simply "nurses," but something else, questionable both as nurses and as men. On the other hand, we know that some men in nursing don't object to "murse" and may even use it themselves. Anyway, the Slim Jim nurse in this ad is not exactly displaying great health care expertise. And when he notes that "it's my job to distribute Slim Jims to patients suffering from male spice loss," there may be an implication that he's just doing what someone else told him to. But on the whole, the ad is laughing with the nurse, not at him. He projects traditional masculinity, with his authoritative voice and military fatigue pants. And he says and does things viewers are supposed to be amused by, mocking the "patients" by publicly labeling them (e.g., "tantric yoga guy") and throwing their prescribed snacks to them (naturally, they can't catch). The nurse also uses relatively large, clinical-sounding words, suggesting some level of education. We wondered if men in nursing were being singled out, but traditionally male health care figures play similar roles in other ads in the company's "spice loss" campaign (see ads featuring physicians and first responders). The idea seems to be simply that men help men be men. And so, despite the "murse" term and the gender-role intolerance in the ad, it may actually be a small step toward normalizing the idea of men in nursing with some of the ad's target audience. We're not suggesting anyone thank ConAgra, but it's food for thought. more...

The most interesting nurse ad in the world

October 25, 2007 -- Viewers of tonight's season premiere of NBC's "Scrubs" did not just miss the nurses that the show mostly ignores. Viewers also missed two "nurses" who no longer appear in an amusing new set of ads for Dos Equis beer, one of which ran during the sitcom. The ads, made by ad agency Euro RSCG, are mock-serious tributes to a character presented as "the most interesting man in the world." This man's "blood smells like cologne," his "beard alone has experienced more than a lesser man's entire body," and he bench-presses two chairs in which sit attractive, giggly women in short dresses--women who are no longer dressed as nurses. That's because we appealed to an independent board that handles such protests for Dos Equis maker Heineken. We argued that the ads were inconsistent with specific marketing standards of the company and the Beer Institute. The panel, which included former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, agreed that the ads should be changed. So Heineken digitally altered the women's clothing to remove the nursing identifiers, frame by frame. We thank the Heineken for doing so, especially since we understand it hopes to use variations of the ads for years to come. The appearance of the ad on the physician-centric "Scrubs" shows how far we still have to go in persuading the media to present a fair portrait of nursing. But it also shows that persistent advocacy can influence how the media treats the profession. more...

CVS pharmacist returns from Matrix; can now download entire nursing curriculum into your brain in four hours!

January 24, 2006 -- The CVS drug store company has recently run a 30-second television ad in which a pharmacist explains how he spent several hours of his own time helping a patient's husband figure out how to administer her 20 different medications. That's great, except that the pharmacist twice stated that the husband was now "a nurse." Of course, we know what he probably meant--modern drug regimens are very complex, and (we might add) the current health financing system has left many patients and their families with the impossible task of trying to nurse themselves. But it's possible that some viewers, lacking knowledge of the nursing crisis, would simply see the ad as a criticism of nurses for failing to do the teaching the pharmacist had to step in to provide. And given the poor public understanding of nursing, we fear that people might think nurses really can be trained by pharmacists in a matter of hours. Last week, we persuaded CVS to pull the ad. Today, CVS told us that it will edit out the "nurse" comments and run the ad without them. We commend CVS, especially the helpful VP of customer service Mark Kolligian, for listening to nurses' concerns and responding to them in a timely and constructive way. more...

TAGGED: Gillette pulls lusty-nurse fever ad

October 3, 2005 -- Today, in response to our campaign, the Gillette Company said that it will pull a "naughty nurse" television ad for TAG Body Spray, though it may take a week for the ad to leave the air. More than 600 of our supporters wrote to Gillette executives to protest the ad (at right), which featured a provocatively dressed "nurse" who developed "highly contagious lusty-nurse fever" and climbed into bed with a male patient wearing the product. We are pleased that the ad will be removed, and we thank Gillette for responding to nurses' concerns. However, we understand that the company has made no plans to repair the damage done by the ad perpetuating this damaging stereotype. So we ask supporters to thank Gillette, but also to urge the Fortune 500 company to take concrete steps to make amends to the nursing profession. more...

Florence is a punk rocker

September 17, 2004 -- A new 15-second television ad by Emerald Nuts shows two "nurses" at a hospital work station eating nuts as they shake frenetically to a thrashing punk/alternative instrumental soundtrack and an announcer intones: "Extreme Nurses Love Emerald Nuts." We understand that some nurses have found this depiction to be degrading. We don't see that it's particularly harmful to nursing, but do provide contact information below for those who wish to express their views to the company. more...

Procter & Gamble pulls Clairol shampoo commercial and apologizes to nurses

June 11, 2003 -- As a result of protests from nurses, Procter & Gamble promised on June 9 to stop running a Clairol Herbal Essences television commercial that showed a female nurse leave her patient unmonitored to wash her hair in his bathroom, then dance around his room, waving her hair in ecstasy. P&G marketing director Andrew Shepard sent a letter to American Nurses Association President Barbara Blakeney, with copies to American College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP) Director of Marketing and Corporate Relations Phyllis Zimmer, ARNP, MN, FNP, FAAN and Truth About Nursing director Sandy Summers, promising that the ad would be discontinued "on the fastest possible timing," stating that P&G "holds the nursing profession in the highest esteem," and offering "sincere apologies" to Ms. Blakeney and the nurses she represents. more...

Zima commercial will no longer air

January 27, 2003 -- A Zima (colorless beer) commercial depicting a "dream date" in which a female "nurse" dressed in a revealing uniform acted as the submissive temptress of a young male "physician," has finished its life cycle and will no longer air, according to the advertising agency of parent company Coors Brewing Company. We had called on Coors to pull the commercial in spring 2002.

Avis commercial off the air

See all Johnson & Johnson nurse television commercials

Lucky Charms

Lucky CharmsJune 2011 -- Recently the drug company Johnson & Johnson (J&J) released a new batch of television advertisements as part of its Campaign for Nursing's Future, which began in 2002 as an effort to address the nursing shortage. The three new 30-second ads, like those released in 2005 and 2007, highlight different aspects of nursing practice and do a good job at promoting diversity. Each of the new ads also conveys something helpful about nursing skill. Unfortunately, each ad focuses mainly on the emotional support nurses give patients, and each concludes with the vaguely uplifting message "NURSES HEAL." One ad features an authoritative ED nurse reacting quickly to a trauma case, but even that ad is dominated by the nurse's returning of a lucky charm to the patient. And the other two ads will strike viewers as being mostly about hand-holding, by a hospice nurse and a pediatric nurse. Thus, despite some positive elements, each ad subtly reinforces the enduring image of nurses as low-skilled angels. The nursing crisis did not happen because people forgot that nurses hold hands. What decision-makers need to know is that nurses are autonomous life-saving professionals who need respect and resources, and in this regard the new ads are actually a step backwards from the 2007 ones. The new ads do at least omit the baby-soft voiceover and sappy music, which undermined the prior ads' good elements with vapid lyrics about how nurses "dare to care." The new ads are also more subtle about promoting J&J itself, though that cuts both ways; it distracts viewers less from the good and bad aspects of the ads. In any case, we thank J&J for its continued efforts to promote nursing, and we urge the company to focus more closely on telling the public that nurses are health experts who save lives. more...


Baby We Were Born to Care

November 2007 -- Johnson & Johnson has begun running a new set of television ads as part of its massive Campaign for Nursing's Future, whose stated goal is to address the nursing shortage. The two new 30-second spots do not abandon the emotional, soft-focus helping imagery that marred the Campaign's previous ads, particularly in the use of more gooey lite music with lyrics about being "born to care." But both ads also do important things we urged the company to do in its analysis of the previous ads. They make clear that nurses save lives and improve outcomes, even offering some specific examples, like defibrillation. One ad pays tribute to nurse educators. And both continue the Campaign's admirable focus on promoting workforce diversity. We thank J&J for ads that do a better job of showing the public that nurses are not just angelic hand-holders. more...


Touching the world

May 2006 -- Since last year, Johnson & Johnson has been running new 30-second U.S. television ads with the laudable goal of promoting nursing careers. These sentimental ads are part of the company's massive "Campaign for Nursing's Future" begun several years ago. Their theme is "the importance of a nurse's touch." In them we see caring young nurses helping patients ranging from a newborn to an older man. The spots are certainly well-produced. And they do include a few elements that suggest the nurses have some skill. But sadly, the ads rely mainly on the same kind of unhelpful angel and maternal imagery that infected the Campaign's original "Dare to Care" ads. And that era's four-minute Recruitment Video, complete with the gooey theme song, is still circulating. Of course "caring" is an important part of nursing. But everyone knows that, and we believe that only greater understanding that nurses actually save lives and improve patient outcomes will attract the resources nursing needs in the long term. For a great alternative ad, consider the wacky, infectious rap recruiting video (right) from 2004 by Craig Barton and the ED staff (right) at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Fortunately, J&J has done more than disseminate troubling ads and videos. They have also financed a helpful nursing web site (which we helped to create) and raised funds for faculty fellowships and student scholarships. The company has also sponsored the longer 2004 recruiting video "Nurse Scientists: Committed to the Public Trust," apparently made for the Friends of the National Institute for Nursing Research. This helpful 11-minute video features nursing academics discussing their research in key areas like cancer, HIV, geriatrics, and domestic violence. It's not exactly going to enthrall the Total Request Live audience. But it tells the public that nurses can be scholars, and it may help address the faculty shortage that is hampering efforts to reduce the overall crisis. more...

Last updated September 22, 2020

book cover, Saving lives

A Few Successes —
We Can Change the Media!

Educate the world that nurses save lives!

Save Lives. Be a Nurse. bumper sticker