In late January of this year, readers of the New York Times Magazine were treated to a cute new installment of the popular “Letter of Recommendation” series: this one, written by an adult man, was for Pedialyte, the pediatric rehydration solution which is basically flavored salt and sugar in water and whose function is — or was — to help sick toddlers. This adult man, Dan Brooks, was singing its praises mostly because it helped his binge drinking induced hangovers.
Though it's no secret that Pedialyte and its adult counterpart, Gatorade, will help you out after a night of heavy drinking, the whole thing seemed sort of pathetic and maybe a little bit worrying; a guy writing in the New York Times about how he loved gulping down something engineered for flu-ridden babies because he'd drank so much the night before he felt severely ill the following morning. A lack of self control is, however, something heavy drinkers and babies have in common.
A lack of self control is, however, something heavy drinkers and babies have in common.
Dan Brooks was not alone in his endorsement of the product as a hangover cure. Abbot, the maker of Pedialyte, has been actually advertising the drink as a quick fix for the after-effects of drinking since May of 2015. They don't come out and say "for when you're vomiting uncontrollably from a night of bingeing,” but the pics of the adult man face palming next to a bottle of the stuff isn't exactly subtle.
So maybe we shouldn't be surprised that this week, during Spring Break — the official holiday of bad decisions — people on the internet are reporting that Pedialyte is advertising the adult uses of the product via Snapchat filters. “Look mom, I'm rehydrating!” blasts one ad, with the familiar logo pinned to the corner of the screen.
Pedialyte was also on the scene for St. Patrick’s Day, with special travel size packets of powder that read, “Feeling shamrock’d?” Pedialyte even has its own hashtag: #notjustforbabies. But you might in fact still be a baby (or an alcoholic) if you drink yourself to a place where you need this product on a regular basis and you're not one year old.
Look, I get it: the Pedialyte product has a limited, narrow user base. I've had one bottle of it unopened in a cabinet “just in case” for two years. The fact that Pedialyte wants to diversify its user base is not a big surprise. And yet there's definitely something disgusting about this campaign.
Part of its new campaign touts the catchphrase “See the Lyte,” clearly meant to mirror a kind of “Coke Is It” normalcy. But if you're reaching for Pedialyte so often that you start to view it as a soft drink, perhaps the light you should be looking for is the warm glow of a 12-step program.