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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Why pharma needs to fall in love with creativity

As Cannes plays host to Lions Health, Shaheed Peera looks beyond default 'creative' settings

Trees hearts

  1. Insert happy patient running down a beach or, if the beach could be an over-claim, gently strolling across a bridge
  2. Superimpose the image onto a jigsaw (if you're feeling really 'creative')
  3. Forget #2, best leave that decision for market research - we don't want to be doing anything crazy now 
  4. Place swooshes at the top and bottom of the page
  5. Insert a series of bullet points
  6. Cover every remaining millimetre of space with PI
  7. Now, can you fit all of this onto a banner ad?

It's easy to make fun of every undifferentiated, formulaic healthcare ad out there. Actually, if you want to see just how much fun it is, play the Bad Ad Generator game 

Unfortunately that's what the market's used to looking at and so that tends to be the default setting of what's seen as 'creative'. 

With increasing pressure on budgets and what governments are prepared to pay for, building brands has never been more important to protect margins and utilising creativity to talk about products and their services, and to build those brands, has never been more critical. 

But while there's clearly a business case for creativity, if 'great creative' isn't that mentioned above, what is it? 

One of my old creative directors told me that we were part of the world's most expensive dating industry

Once upon a time, far far away in a distant galaxy, one of my old creative directors told me that we were part of the world's most expensive dating industry. 

Our job, when done well, is to make our client's products attractive enough for punters to want to meet up with them. So, are you looking for a one-night stand or do you want a long and loving relationship? 

I believe coming up with great creative in pharma needs to starts here: 

  1. We don't fall in love with bullet points (this comes further down the line, once you have a joint bank account) 
  2. We fall in love with something that touches our heart. Something that draws us in and triggers that inner smile we all have 

So, wouldn't you want your brand to be more Angelina Jolie and less Dot CottonBut how do we attempt to even get close to the heady heights of love that VW, John Lewis, Honda etc have given us over the years?

We could begin by educating our teams and clients to believe that long-term brand relationships start with the heart. And inspiring them with examples of how other brands have done it is the only way we'll make things better. 

As a start I've put together some examples below that I believe both do this and counter common misconceptions within pharma. 

1. To show patient burden you need to see the patient    

This beautiful animation proves you can actually get quite a lot of emotion from a head made up of 3 circles.
Credits: Real Science Communications

2. It's important to show an aspirational, emotional patient benefit

A 75% increase in sales after the launch of this campaign proves otherwise.
Credits: Langland

CRF press ad Langland

3. Market research will give us the answer

Market Research has killed some of the world's most famous consumer advertising campaigns. The only reason they made it out was a defiant agency and client. Brave enough to go with their gut. I don't have enough space to show all of them. But here are a couple that you might like. Now, how many potentially great healthcare campaigns do you think market research has killed?
Credits: AMV BBDO

You might find this interesting … after 20 rounds of market research, the client was told to take the horses out of this ad. It has been voted the best advert of all time.

4. Humour has no place in pharma

You're going to remember these symposium posters a lot longer than any others you might have seen before.
Credits: CDM London

Looks can be deceiving ad

Credits: AMV BBDO

Article by
Shaheed Peera

Executive creative director at Publicis Life Brands Europe, and one of the UK members of the 2015 Lions Health jury

19th June 2015

From: Marketing

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