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AdLib: Simon says...

Ellen Walton, senior art director at DDB Health, takes a unique view at a selection of advertising campaigns and wonders how they would cope under the withering stare of X-Factor judge, Simon Cowell

Hundreds of medical journals come through our front door over the course of the year (my husband's a London GP), so I can't help having the occasional flick through or glancing over his shoulder before they disappear into the recycling bin.

It's quite addictive viewing actually: to catch a few newsworthy headlines, be entertained by GP opinions, grimace at the odd skin disorder, and cringe at so many of the amateurish ads that still make it into these publications.

I suppose it's a bit like those first few episodes of the X Factor, when the judges search in vain for star quality among a sea of wannabes, and have a good laugh along the way. So many try so hard that they fail to connect, or they play it so safe that they are easily forgotten. Yet, they keep coming back time and time again, hoping that overexposure will do the trick.

It's not hard to spot real star quality; a message that resonates, a concept that sings, a story with passion. When that brilliant ad appears, it's a mixture of joy and pain; joy that a class act has made it through all the research and global acceptance, and pain that it I didn't create it.

While I can enjoy playing harsh critic in this article, I understand how hard it is to please everyone and still have something in the end to be proud of. I wonder what the X Factor judges would say about these five ads from this month's GP journals? Let's ask Simon.

GLUCOPHAGE SR - for diabetes
Just how did this amateur ad for Glucophage SR get through to print? First of all, the headline is a song we are all familiar with, but someone got their films mixed up - try Grease, not Saturday Night Fever. The cartoon style of illustration looks like a bad marker rendering of a poor concept for testing. It couldn't have made it through testing though: no self-respecting GP would admit to liking this ad, although they may remember it for its vulgarity. Surely, this ad has missed the point, even if the John Travolta imposter is making one.

Duac - for mild to moderate acne
An X Factor finalist! Duac's campaign has everything going for it. This delightfully composed photo is so well directed and cast that you really believe you are in her world. The last ad from the campaign featuring the three teenage guys was good, but this one feels less contrived and more honest. The headline and copy are superbly simple and spot on (no pun intended), using teen speak to make the point. If the acne treatment works as well as the ad then it's a winning formula and I hope there is yet another from this series.









Ellen Walton is senior art director at DDB Health

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24th April 2007


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