With Spotlight, Shy Bladder Group Aims to Alter the Conversation
Its protest of a DirecTV commercial has netted the International Paruresis Association some negative coverage in the media. That’s just fine with IPA though. Any attention is better than no attention at all, the group said.
If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet in the last week, you probably saw the story about Rob Lowe, his DirecTV ad, and the shy bladder group that has a problem with it.
For those playing catchup, here’s the gist of the situation: One particular ad in the DirecTV campaign (below) features “painfully awkward Rob Lowe,” who admits that he “can’t go [to the bathroom] with other people in the room.”
Members of the International Paruresis Association who saw the ad found it to be offensive and, through written letters, asked the company to stop showing it. (Paruresis is the medical term for shy bladder syndrome.) After its efforts failed, IPA’s board released a formal statement, which was picked up by media organizations last week and caught fire.
The response from the public, DirecTV, and Rob Lowe himself, was not exactly the kind of reaction IPA was hoping for.
“I would say we’re not doing very well in the polls,” said Steve Soifer, the organization’s CEO. “The vitriolic nature of a lot of the comments from people has really surprised me.”
Despite the response, Soifer said IPA is thrilled with the fact that shy bladder syndrome has broken into mainstream media. The group’s work has been discussed on the TODAY Show (a segment during which correspondent Carson Daly admitted that he may suffer from paruresis), Soifer made an appearance on The Doctors, and various other articles have been published on the topic.
“We feel like we may have finally reached the tipping point on this issue,” he said. “People have different opinions about it and really don’t understand it, which is my major frustration, but I think we’ve finally got it in the public discussion, and that is important because that hopefully will lead to positive change down the road.”
Part of the struggle for the organization in terms of public perception, Soifer said, is that people don’t take the condition seriously. That’s something the group hopes it can change now that IPA has the spotlight.
“People tend to make fun, initially, of these kinds of conditions because they don’t understand them,” he said. “People don’t realize that we have anecdotal stories of people having committed suicide because of this issue. People have lost their jobs because they couldn’t, on command, complete urine testing; people don’t travel; people have never had relationships—all because of this condition. Getting these stories out there while people are paying attention—that’s how, eventually, we’re going to help educate the public and change the way people think about shy bladder syndrome.”
A DirecTV ad featuring Rob Lowe got the International Paruresis Association talking. (YouTube screenshot)