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Heart of the matter

The cardiovascular (CV) marketplace has been the staff of life for many a major pharmaceutical company, it seems to be one of those therapy areas where competition hasn't driven audacity but rather conservatism

Mat RowleyThe cardiovascular (CV) marketplace has been the staff of life for many a major pharmaceutical company. On the whole though, CV seems to be one of those therapy areas where competition hasn't driven audacity but rather conservatism. This has resulted in monographs masquerading as advertisements.

Now I've got two theories on how this has come about. The first has to do with new data. Naturally, we want to shout about it wherever we can, including in our advertising - just as a retailer would about its promotional offers. However, whereas a retailer would only run the advert for a few weeks, in the industry we tend to run our ads for months or even years!

So if the news we built the advertisement around has not become stale, then the flimsy concept used to convey the data almost certainly has.

My second theory is tied to a more recent influence - the flood of generics into this market. Let's face it, the stack them high, sell them cheap brigade aren't known for their big advertising ideas. I've chosen a few adverts from the CV therapy area in the three biggest European markets to give a feel of what's out there, as well as some that buck the trend.

Norvasc (amlodipine) - Pfizer, Germany

Norvasc advertIt's not often that you see rugby used in a pharma ad and then two ads come along at once. As an ex-rugby player, the gritty realism in this execution (see the amateur players' bulging waistlines) takes me back, but would it do the same for many Germans?

This makes me think that either: a) rugby is such a rarity in Germany that just using this shot got the ad instant cut through, or b) the manufacturer has crammed this international ad into the German market to milk the last drop from this genericised brand.

As for the execution, I have a suspicion that the blue tint is simply covering up average photography and the headline, The successful calcium antagonist is as pedestrian as the guy on the far left of the picture (who looks to be in need of an inhaler). Marks though for keeping the copy down.

Generic amlodipine - ratiopharm, Germany

Generic advertOK, you're the ratiopharm product manager for amlodipine, wondering how you're going to get your hands on all those scripts in Norvasc that are now up for grabs. Fighting the mighty Pfizer surely won't be easy. Then you see their ad.

After you stop scratching your head (what's with this rugby stuff?) you get an idea - use their own bizarre ad against them! On one hand, you've got to admire the bravado of this idea. After all, it is a rare find; a German pharma ad with rugby and humour in it.

On the other hand, the cheap illustration and lack of killer headline lets it down. I also happen to have seen the ratiopharm brand guidelines and can tell you that this ad breaks a lot of them, which is a pity because they're really rather good.

Crestor (rosuvastatin) - AZ, France

Crestor advertWhere this ad works is that, even though the headline has turned into a data point, Up to 50% of LDL-c reduced with a dose of 10mg, the idea within the ad doesn't completely depend on it.

In fact, it looks as if the headline was swapped with the copy in the bottom left Take the power to control LDL-cholesterol. From an advertising purist's point of view, this makes the ad a bit upside down, but I'm sure it kept the brand manager happy.

The three-page version of this ad starts with a teaser where we only see a full-page shark representing LDL-c at large. The following DPS is this image where we realise that it was only a miniature Great White in a crystal ball after all - quelle surprise!

I can live with the dramatic symbolism (cultural differences and all) but this one does seem a little more of a forced fit than usual. Perhaps mini sharks in crystal balls are more prevalent in France?

Tritace (ramipril) - Aventis, UK

Tritace advertHere's the first of two UK ads that I think break the mould. Before you accuse me of bias, let me point out that although I work out of London, I'm not British but in fact born Australian, which probably biases me the other way.

Even though I've had this ad rammed down my throat at every awards ceremony in the UK for the past couple of years, I still like it. The best thing about it is the humour, which many a brand manager and agency alike would have baulked at in the fear that it's disrespectful to patients.

The success of this campaign leading up to Tritace's loss of patent in the UK proved that UK GPs, as, I bet, most GPs around the world, possess a dark sense of humour. They need to to stay sane. If you get the joke right, in the appropriate therapy area, then you've got them on your side. They might even pay attention to what you have to say.

Lipitor (atorvastatin) - Pfizer, UK

Lipitor advertThere are those who would say that this style of advertising is a little like painting by numbers: choose a great landscape, add a person and a little copy et voil‡, you have an emotional concept.

Personally, I think this ad works well because when I see it I instantly feel the headline. In a cardiology journal full of the competitor campaigns I've seen, this instantly gives it an edge.

It's also well crafted through the choices of font, layout and copy, which actually works the contentious data bullet points into the concept. Even the seemingly mandatory Pfizer blue wash fits in.

The one clunky bit for me is the digitally inserted feet. What, no photoshoot?

2nd September 2008

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