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Ad Lib blog

Creative critiques of pharma and healthcare ads and campaigns

Competitive and Compelling?

“Trajenta and Cleni – where are your persuasive powers?” asks Dominic Owens as he reviews three campaigns

Ads should set out to persuade, they should not just be announcements. Announcements do not change opinions, they are a waste of money.

So it always amazes me that pharma products take so little care to make a persuasive offer in their communications. All too often in pharma, we analyse the product's advantages and decide on the key messages, without comparing them to those of the competition, meaning we tell people what to think, we do not persuade competitively.

This is partly because the secretive nature of the industry means it can be difficult to find out what the competition claim, but I believe we should always try to persuade, to advocate that our product is best and to give the reasons why.

To do this, we should be making sure the ad is a unified combination of headline claim and interesting visual and supporting copy, so that the reader is first interested; then persuaded to believe. If any of the elements do not align, the ad is weakened, which is all to often what happens in pharma.

So, looking through the ads in recent publications, there seem to be a number of ads that, though they have strong thoughts in them, are still not aligning the elements to truly persuade – they are all too often making an announcement, a kind of 'memo to the public'.

Trajenta – Boehringer Ingelheim/Lilly



Trajenta – Boehringer Ingelheim/Lilly

Agency: Sudler & Hennessey

This ‘Control and Care Matter’ ad is a pharma classic for suffering from ‘list-itis’. The headline sets up an offer of Control and Care – which is a lead thought for the comms which the bird visual kind-of-vaguely fits with, but the copy then proceeds to list a set of unconnected sales messages, suspiciously like a summary of the pages in the sales aid.

As a result the ad leaves you with nothing memorable about the product, because it confuses one claim with a list of unconnected facts, rather than reasons to believe.

Clenil – Chiesi



Clenil – Chiesi

Agency: Swordfish

This is an ad where the visual is treated as wallpaper, instead of as a support for the headline claim, as so often in pharma, weakening a strong offer.

The headline says ‘the only …’ which is a rare claim (though not a great benefit maybe, more of a producer feature?) but the visual is of a traditional library shot of a happy family with hands in the air at the seaside, as only pharma-families seem to know how.

If the visual had stuck to the theme of ‘the only…’ and there had been an adult and child relationship supported in the visual and the body copy, we would have had something persuasive, not just an announcement.

Duac – Stiefel (GSK)



Duac – Stiefel (GSK)

Agency: Hive

This isn’t as charming as the old Woolley Pau Teenager ads, but at least it has a positioning that is loud and clearly executed and is a well-executed thought that challenges the audience to change their opinions.

It has a strong visual which also contains the headline, includes an idea of a head-to-head challenge to make its efficacy sound convincing and leaves the reader feeling like they are negligent if they don’t try Duac.

Strongly competitive. Let’s see how Zineryt respond to this one.

Article by
Dominic Owens

planning director, Seven Stones

10th May 2012


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