When Madison Avenue pitches artificial knees, do we all pay?

Americans — personally, or through private insurance or Medicare — spend more than $12 billion a year on artificial knees and hips. That’s more than Hollywood takes in at the box office.

A TV ad I’ve seen recently for artificial knees and hips made by Smith & Nephew, a British medical technology company, may help explain why we spend so much on these implants. It is not the kind of ho-hum ad we now see so regularly, urging us to seek relief from a disease we’ve never heard of by taking a pill with so many side effects it takes the pitchman half the air time to recite them. Instead, Smith & Nephew’s ads look more like a pitch for Nike.

Here’s how the ads are described in an article I found on the website of a trade publication, Pharmaceutical Executive:

A gray silhouette moves seamlessly, flowing like ink through water — swimming, golfing, playing tennis. The only discernable, solid characteristics in these figures in motion are the hip and knee replacement devices from Smith & Nephew. Chief creative officer Jonathan Isaacs and group account director Ann Woodward from Ogilvy Healthworld, part of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, are two of the many creative people who took part in developing the ad campaign for Smith & Nephew hip and knee replacement products, encouraging patients to “rediscover their go.”

This DTC [Direct to Consumer] campaign manifested as TV spots aimed to showcase joint replacement devices in a nonconventional way, delivering the message that “this isn’t your grandfather’s hip,” according to Isaacs. “I think we tried to do something that felt much more state-of-the-art. This literally is the next generation of hip and knee replacement.”