The answer lies in a loophole built into the act, also under the guise of consumer protection. An exemption was included to allow pharmacies to post price comparisons, so buyers could get the best deal, but only the name and the price could be included in the ad - no medical conditions or claims of effectiveness. So now, as Canadians, we're treated to two kinds of 'reminder' ads: The Guy Lafleur erectile dysfunction type, that mention a condition but no drug (talk to your doctor about ED) and the Viagra type that mention a drug but no condition (Viagra...ask your doctor) and leave the rest to inference and innuendo. Be careful, though, about running the two too close together: a few years ago, Health Canada cracked down on Wyeth for running acne awareness ads in the same commercial block as their drug Alesse - a birth control and anti-acne drug, using similar themes to link the two in consumers minds.
While Canadian drug marketers have to rely on coy and uninformative (though imaginative) advertising, our neighbours to the south face a different situation. The United States is one of only two nations that allow direct to consumer pharmaceutical advertising (New Zealand is the other). Instead companies can advertise their wares, but must include extensive information about negative side-effects.
Which system is best? That's a tough call. If we must be at the mercy of advertisers, my inclination would be a US system that includes both positive and negative about the drug. It's a rare person that doesn't know what Viagra is for, but probably far fewer are aware of the side-effects. In this sense, the uninformative Canadian ads may be more harmful. However, it's been argued that allowing all-out drug advertising increases the cost of pharmacare since drug companies pass the ad expenses on to consumers. (I fail to see how allowing only Canadian-style ads reduces this expense). Finally, with all drug advertising, there's the issue of mis-prescribing. Studies have shown that if a specific drug is asked for, the chances of it being prescribed increase, regardless of whether they manifest the correct symptoms: "The fact that they asked for the antidepressant was a stronger determinant of treatment than whether they had the conditions the drug was meant to treat."