Combat with virus misses the point

The latest in a series of pharmaceutical ads uses a combat sport image to catch the eye of busy physicians. Superficial examination of the picture reveals a series of unfortunate errors that introduce a tragicomic string of mixed messages.  In particular, association of a combat sport with the serious business of fighting off chronic viral infection is risky. Are medical practitioners just bewildered spectators on the sidelines of a combat zone? The Micrognome, a seasoned combat sports enthusiast, will explain why the ad misses the point.

Fencing (University of Idaho introduction) is a combat sport that has featured in the Olympic Games since the beginning of the modern era. Three weapons are used. They vary in how hits are delivered, where on the body hits are recorded and whether hits can register on both opponents simultaneously.

Weapon Guard Hit delivery Hits scored Simultaneous
Foil Small round Point on Trunk only


Epee Large round Point on Whole body


Sabre Large comma shape Edge on Above waist & head



The selected image is a mixture of the weapon, protective jacket and mask from each of these combat discipline:

  • the weapons is a foil
  • the jacket would only score hits at epee
  • the shiny metal mask is for sabre

But there is more. The foil tip has not yet landed, despite the outstretched arm and lean of the fencer. He has over-committed, given away his intent too early and is unlikely to fix his point in the hole in the number 6.

What’s the point?

Putting the mixed messages together, combat sport experience indicates that this particular product suffers from poor attack delivery, inability to register hits and confusion about the nature of the target.


If we return to the needs of the physicians faced with patients with this infection, the combat sport analogy misses the point. Most physicians in this part of the world will not be familiar with the subtler messages captured in this type of advertisement. But their intuition is bang on when they question the relevance of the combat sport image.

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