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Ad Lib blog

Creative critiques of pharma and healthcare ads and campaigns

I quit!

Harry Armfield asks whether these three campaigns can really be life changing?

No, not my agency, where I am perfectly content (though a few quid a week extra wouldn't go amiss – Mike, Dave, Liz are you listening?); rather the subject of this Ad Lib. 'Tis just the other side of the Lenten season, after all. And, if not for spiritual reasons, then perhaps consideration should be given to refraining, cutting down, even quitting for health reasons. My choices are those three horseman of the health apocalypse: food, booze and fags. 

Anti-ciggy campaigns have been around for eons, but no matter how shocking the communication – 'smoking kills' messages on packs – or the exorbitant price and pariah status of being forced to smoke out on the streets, anti-smoking measures continue to have had little effect on the populace. 

Likewise, ads aimed at curbing alcohol consumption, which tend to focus only on the worst elements of binge drinking, ie, drunken louts and ladettes scrambling about in the gutter on a Geordie Saturday night. 

Overindulgence in food is a relative newcomer to the table (pun intended). But given that this health risk is predicted to swallow (ditto) the lion's share (ditto) of all future healthcare budgets, one cannot yet call to mind any effective campaign warning of this big, fat danger.

'Mutations' anti-smoking campaign – Dept of Health (UK)



Agency: Dare and Now

A series of hard-hitting government films featuring people smoking tabs with a tumour growing from the end. Apparently just 15 cigs can cause a mutation that leads to cancerous tumours. It’s shock advertising (smoking causes death, no less), but one can’t help thinking I’ve seen it all before – the 'Fatty Cigarette' campaign by the British Heart Foundation in 2006, for one. Far more effective, I think was a previous video campaign of cute kids talking to camera appealing to their parents to quit smoking, because, wait for it, they didn’t want their mummies and daddies to die. I don’t even smoke, but it had me quitting. I think smokers will find the ‘tumour’ statistics of this ad hard to inhale. Surely, they would have been dead 10 times over by now. 

Don’t let drink sneak up on you – Dept of Health (UK)



Agency: Internal campaign

Everyone knows booze is bad for you, but none of us are alcoholics, right? None of us drink every day, do we? Well, maybe just the odd glass or two with our dinner. Oh yeah, there were the couple of small beers I had with my pizza at lunch, and that leaving drink after work. But apart from that... So a new, nationwide Change4Life campaign, instead of focusing on being permanently poleaxed, has taken a softly-softly approach – that drinking more than the official guidelines, an extra unit here and there, can seriously impact long-term health. Does it work? It's certainly an intelligent approach. It appeals to sense, rather than shock. It gives me an achievable call to action. Give me a beer and I'll certainly think about it.

Stop sugarcoating child obesity – Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Movement/ Strong4Life



Agency: Internal campaign

Childhood obesity is a major problem in the US (and something of a worry for us too). With the second worst rate in the US, the Georgia Children's Health Alliance has launched a controversial Strong4Life childhood obesity awareness campaign, featuring unhappy-looking, avoirdupois-challenged kids. Needless to say, the campaign has polarised audiences. Criticised for stigmatising overweight kids on the one hand (hey mister, leave them kids alone), the organisers argue that it is an urgent wake-up call aimed at adults (who make decisions for children), not kids. I think making obese parents feel guilty is definitely playing in the right area. 'Though as a CD, I would have tightened up on some of the headlines. He has his father's eyes, his father's nose, his father's belly.'

Article by
Harry Armfield

deputy creative director, Concentric Advertising London

3rd April 2013

From: Marketing



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