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Courage under fire

Dave Harris, head of art at PAN Advertising, awards the medals for this month's bravest ads

Dave Harris - head of art at PAN Advertising Times are tough. You know the score. We may not be trying to sell cars or mortgages to Joe Public, but our industry is affected by a crunch of its very own with mergers, patent expiries and increasing regulation.

Tough times call for tough measures and in the healthcare advertising business we should be no different. Tighter budgets on all sides mean our ideas simply have to work harder. Now, more than ever, is a time to be brave, to stand up and produce creative solutions with less fuzzy felt and more focus.

Today, there should be no room for wallpaper, for generic 'me too' concepts, for the weak and for the muddled. Now is the time to champion the brand and create strong, simple and creative solutions with impact that work harder than ever. So be brave, and if you're lucky enough to have a good idea, stand up and make sure it meets its true potential.

As all brave deeds deserve recognition, I've gone for the medal as a way of rewarding heroism in the field of creative conflict.

Kissing in the rain - Erectile dysfunction

Kissing in the rain - Cialis; Erectile dysfunction

Let's face it, Cialis and Levitra have always been in the shadow of the little blue pill, and I think their advertising has reflected this too. While Viagra has managed certain brand consistencies over the years, Cialis and Levitra have chopped and changed and struggled.

Cialis has chosen ramblers, then Hercules and Titans and now...erm...Gene Kelly? Nothing against the late, great Mr Kelly, but it's an odd choice when the previous work has always appeared to champion masculinity.

Now, I love the cinema, so an ad like this will always catch my eye. The problem is that if you're going to use a great cinema poster motif, make sure you do it justice. There are some nice touches, like depicting the 36-hour efficacy by using the classification symbol, but it seems half-finished, with a rather flat photograph. It comes across as an opportunity missed. Make the fact that Stan and Maureen stood under that rain machine worthwhile. It's a great opportunity, undercooked.

Medal A great idea that just misses being a blockbuster


Nicorette invisi patch – Smoking cessation

Now I know I'm an ex-smoker and not a prescriber, but come on, what's with the 'wacky races' imagery?! Treat your audience with some respect, please. Let me see, what's the message here...give them a good start?

Woo hoo I got it! But it's a hollow victory and I can't help feeling I'm being talked-down to.

I fail to see the 20 Benson tucked inside this smoker's salopettes. He seems an odd choice for this metaphor, but maybe he did the trick at research and made the right impression. I can imagine it may score well on impact, but will it be remembered for the right reasons? If you do go with a simple metaphor like this, then maybe some sophistication in its execution could have helped.

Nicorette invisi patch - Smoking cessation

Big brand, yet kindergarten messaging. It's all a bit Mutley

Stelara – Plaque psoriasis

Stelara - Plaque psoriasis

I've included this ad because it caught my attention, and initially for the right reasons too. Its clean layout, colour and use of photography whispered, "Hey, come and take a closer look..." The trouble is, when I took a closer look, I was met with slightly mixed messages.

Stelara is a new treatment for plaque psoriasis, treating symptoms with convenient dosing that allows our patient to drive her Chevy through the Nevada mud flats. There's an idea here about having less treatment days per year with Stelara, allowing the patient to enjoy the remainder. Hey, there's even a sum to illustrate the point, but it all gets a bit lumpy and slightly clumsy.

It's an interesting hook, but it gets lost in the messaging. It just feels overcomplicated for such a clear, simple premise, on a cleanly-designed execution. Shame. Be brave – keep it simple.

Medal Struggling with a flat battery. I do hope she has some water with her


Xenical – Weight loss

In a landscape where it sometimes feels as if only the bland survive, the Xenical campaign has been a breath of fresh air. True, I wasn't a great fan of the early years where a couple of weak executions tended to let the ideas down, but, like a good wine (that's far too unhealthy for us), the campaign has matured nicely. I salute the creative involved, but most of all, I salute a client who not only recognised a great idea, but had the courage to run with it, using many executions over the years. Their reward is a major brand in the hearts and minds of the target audience (see this year's PM awards for GP vindication). I also believe the current '10 years of Healthy Obsession' campaign is the best yet. Simple, uncluttered and beautifully stylised, with a neat visual twist.

Xenical - Weight loss

A track record that's worth celebrating


DUAC – Acne treatment

Duac - Acne treatment

The recent Duac campaign depicts the end user beautifully.

My favourite execution is this teenage girl on her mobile, but what I've highlighted here is an abbreviated version of a full-page ad.

As a father of a teenage girl myself, I know that life for them is, like, so complicated. I also understand that when the dreaded adolescent acne makes its presence felt, the last thing a teenager wants to do is stand out from the crowd. This ad does stand out, and for all the right reasons, bringing you back to the full-page version with relative ease. With sharp executions like this, the client need never have to spend the media budget on a full page again.

Proof, indeed, that if you have a strong concept with well-observed copywriting and great production values, small can be beautiful.

MedalMedal Another shot in the arm for strong, focused creativity, even on a smaller scale

The Author
Dave Harris is head of art at PAN Advertising
To comment on this article, email

6th July 2009


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