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A degree of care

To be fair, we all know it's there for a very good reason. But, creatively, ABPI guidelines necessitate a level of cunning and guile that would make Machiavelli blush

Pharmaceutical advertising is, without doubt, the pinnacle of creative endeavour. Okay, so we may be a tad biased, but surely no one can deny the skill required to create memorable, informative ads, with hands firmly shackled by that pesky ABPI Code.

To be fair, we all know it's there for a very good reason. But, creatively, ABPI guidelines necessitate a level of cunning and guile that would make Machiavelli blush.

To complicate things further, a therapy area can itself hinder certain creative approaches.

While we'd all fancy our chances of raising a titter from constipation, for example, the comic route is pretty much ruled out when it comes to life-threatening conditions.

Similarly, we all know that some therapy areas lend themselves to arresting, thought-provoking imagery, while others need far more subtle approaches.

So, bearing all this in mind, here's our review. As we've both been to Oxford - after all, our office is only 10 minutes away - we thought a degree rating system would be highly appropriate.

Click on images for larger view

ArimidexArimidex - for advanced breast cancer
This may look like a rather bland ad, but it really does have a lot going for it. As a treatment for advanced breast cancer, great sensitivity was obviously needed, and achieved. It has just one take home message, presented strongly and clearly.

This clarity is aided by relegation of the PI to the reverse page. The result - a refreshing change from the jumbled, multi-message nature of many pharma ads.

The problem is the grey, washed-out, really rather depressing look to the visual. A slightly different execution may have been able to better convey the positive nature of the message, while still acknowledging the gravity of the situation.

Sensitive area, nice ad, but could be even better.

SeroquelSeroquel - for schizophrenia/bipolar manic episodes
Okay, as we all know, certain areas are more fertile than others when it comes to pharma adverts - but hey, there's still ample opportunity to screw up.

This, the latest in a fairly long-running campaign, hits all the right buttons. Concept, art direction and retouching are all top notch. The use of such an iconic building, together with the Dr Who overtones, give it a relevance and 'Britishness' that's sadly missing from many pharma ads.

The only slight criticism is the copy content. Redolent of many recent anti-psychotic ads, it's perhaps starting to feel a tad jaded.

Dramatic condition, eye-catching image, great result.

DetrusitolDetrusitol - for urinary incontinence
This ad's predecessor was reviewed a couple of months ago. Yet, as an example of how a campaign develops, the current ad also merits inclusion.

The Surrealist charm of the original - a sort of Vermeer meets Magritte hybrid - has somehow been lost through the attempt to inject humour.

Whether you like it or not (and we do), there's no denying it has high impact. If tested, it would no doubt have very high recall.

While not as well thought out or executed as the previous Detrusitol ad, the male model is a good choice; at least he can act. Hasn't he been on the telly?

A definite improvement on the previous campaign.

EbixaEbixa - for Alzheimer's disease
Hmm, this ad highlights the problems mentioned in our intro. It's a difficult therapy area that needs to be treated sensitively and with subtlety. Unfortunately, this ad fails on both counts.

The image is both confusing and poorly executed. The wrong model and poor acting give the shot an unintentional sort of 'Carry On' humour.

From a design point of view, there are too many boxes and too much going on, giving the whole thing a curiously dated look. Remove the PI and it could be the cover of the detail aid.

Sorry guys - no graduation for this one.

LumiganLumigan - for glaucoma/ocular hypertension
Ahh... the classic pharma ad. A happy patient with a camera (needs good eyesight ya see), standing in front of a beautiful feel-good landscape.

Combine that with the good old `seeing is believing' line and the job's done. Now let's be frank, this is not an original, dynamic, attention-grabbing ad. But it does convey the merits of the product it advertises, simply and effectively.

We had a discussion as to whether this was photographed live, or just a bloke dropped into a stock shot. Either way, the result is perfectly acceptable. Problem is, a good creative opportunity has been missed. Could have had some real fun with the `seeing is believing' theme.

Meat and drink, but needs more spice.

2nd September 2008

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OPEN Access Consulting is a specialist market access agency within the OPEN Health Group. As value communications experts we specialise...

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