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A feeling of déj· vu

Fresh from the IPA Best of Health Awards, we were thrilled at the invitation to review a batch of healthcare ads.

Fresh from the IPA Best of Health Awards (although Andy is still suffering from the effects of the vodka luge), we were thrilled at the invitation to review a batch of healthcare ads.

So we set out into the searing 37-degree Marlow heat to dangle our feet in the cool water of the Thames and give the journals a good going over.

As circumstance would have it, we only got as far as the paddling pool on the fire escape, but as we waded through the journals, we were both struck by the strangest feeling of dÈj· vu.

A huge number of ads looked the same! Has anyone (apart from last month's reviewers) noticed the number of campaigns featuring people with their hands in the air? Or people doing things in the garden? Or old people laughing with their grandchildren? Or people with their hands in the air?

Heck, does anyone even bother looking through the journals before embarking on creative routes anymore? This month, we've decided to compare three pairs of ads to see just how similar they are.

Micardis - for hypertension
He's in bed. The sun is shining. It's morning. He's got his arms outstretched. He's old, he's happy and his heart is pumping blood around his body. It does look, however, as though he's been living a little too close to a nuclear reactor.

The retouchers have done a reasonable job of showing what goes on under the old boy's jim-jams, but frankly we find it all a bit disturbing.

It looks a bit like the cover of a detail aid. The ad probably got top marks in research, ticking all the right boxes, but it just all looks too contrived.

Co-Diovan - for hypertension
She's out playing footy. The sun is shining. It's morning. She's got her arms outstretched. She's old, she's happy and her heart is pumping blood around her body.

This time the retouchers have obviously not been involved, but an ominous red line has been drawn on top of her clothes, which we find even more disturbing.

The red line running under the visual looks as though it's out to attack her and her granddaughter. Okay, so it's black and white, but given that this is the same therapy area, how is the target audience supposed to remember which brand is which?

On a positive note, she does look as if she's going to save that penalty.

Flomaxtra XL - for BPH
He's smiling. He's stretching. It's morning. It's sunny. He's just stepped out of his caravan and he's ready to start a new day.

The caravan works well as a prop because, let's face it, you wouldn't want to negotiate those steps three or four times a night when you need to `go'!

But, again, the shot looks contrived, as though the elements were captured in a studio and stripped in later.

NeoClarityn - for hayfever
She's smiling. She's stretching. It's morning. It's sunny. She's just stepped out of her tent and she's ready to start a new day.

Similarly to the Flomaxtra XL ad, the tent works well as a prop because, let's face it, you'd have to be barking to go camping in all that long grass if you had hayfever, without a really effective drug in your backpack.

There's a real promise here - the shot doesn't look contrived (apart from the fact that the poor woman looks like she's standing in a hole) and the position of the headline serves to emphasise the look of relief on the model's face.

Cialis - for erectile dysfunction
They're happy. They're in love. They're under a tree and they have the freedom to make love if they want to. Mind you, if this is how they improvise, it could be where the problem arose (or rather, didn't).

There's an idea here waiting to get out, but it's all gone a bit Gardeners' World. We would like to have seen them less passive and with a bit more passion. You know the sort of thing - on the kitchen table, in the library or the supermarket. But maybe that's just the heat getting to us.

Mizollen - for hayfever
They're happy. They're in love. They're under a tree and they have the freedom to make love if they want to. But hang on a minute! What's this? He's wearing a gas mask.

This isn't an ad for erectile dysfunction (now that's what I would call improvisation); it's for hayfever.

Beautifully shot and art directed, with a simple message. Even if the indication wasn't mentioned, you would know what this brand was for.

All in all, we reckon this one leaves the rest in the shade.

The author
Liz Maclaren is creative director and Andy Bell is creative director (copy) at Huntsworth Health ñ VB Communications

This article is a creative critique of healthcare ads and does not take into account the marketing objectives behind the campaigns reviewed.

2nd September 2008

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