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Literally speaking

The ad is the public face of a campaign; it reinforces the essential message in such a fashion that inspires the prescriber to act in a way that is consistent with the sum of the marketing programme

The ad is the public face of a campaign; it reinforces the essential message in such a fashion that inspires the prescriber to act in a way that is consistent with the sum of the marketing programme.

The whole campaign can communicate a complex marketing proposition, but what of an ad? I think not - unless someone has mixed up his or her detail aid copy (usually the summary page) with his or her ad copy.

Remember, you're paid to toe the company line and read the long copy; doctors are not. This means that a reader must be able to `interpret' the main message from an ad. To go further and actually `understand' the intent of the ad requires a good grasp of the brief and of its job within the marketing mix.

The communication in an ad should be simple and straightforward. It should inspire confidence in the reader to prescribe and should be culturally appropriate for the frame of reference of doctors.

If you've spent any social time in the company of doctors (no, market research sessions do not count), you'll know that not only are they very literal, but they also have a sense of humour which understands the reality of the human condition. With this in mind, I have based my rating system on Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen's classic novel which explores the subtly of human nature. Elizabeth Bennett is inspired by the sight of a drenched Mr Darcy; a simple image that makes her knees quiver.

Click on images for a larger view.

ABILIFY - for schizophrenia

abilifyThe A logo is so important to the company that, at first, I didn't get the `Q&A' allusion and the question/answer is lost in relation to it. Doctors are literal, so let's be logical for a moment: `75 per cent have prescribed' - is that one very difficult patient each, where everything else has failed, or is it for all of the patients seen by the 75 per cent of doctors?

It's a meaningless statistic taken alone, and I'm willing to bet that most doctors (straight As at A-level) will suspect something is awry.

COZAAR - for hypertension

cozaarCollected volumes of history say that man makes mistakes most everyday, and the Titanic was a beaut'. I suspect that this ad originated in New Jersey, as in the UK we remember the lives lost in the Titanic disaster, not the survivors' good luck; a social faux pas.

Doctors learn about hypothermia - survival time in a dressing gown, no lifeboat in sight - the guy could never have lived to swim that far from the boat.

If you want to use the sea as an allegory for cardiovascular risk - and it seems popular to do so right now - you could do a lot worse that make an origami boat out of the GISSI paper. However, it does have stopping power and the message cannot be missed - back to survivors and their good luck again?

OMACOR - cardiovascular

omacorI've waited 25 years to see this concept executed properly. It's a delight to see it - a post launch phase ad that develops the main launch theme (20 per cent more people alive) in a way that can be understood immediately through the cultural image of lit candles.

That all of them are alight and the 20 per cent benefit is open to all, is important. And they are not just any old candles; they have burnt down, their edges becoming weaker putting them at risk, yet they are still burning. You understand within seconds, without reams of copy.

REQUIP - for Parkinson's disease

requipThe first detail I ever did was for a product for Parkinson's disease, and I've never lost empathy with it. As one of the few disease areas where patients actively thank doctors for returning their ability to take back control of normal everyday activities, this ad speaks volumes. It leaves the doctors to fill in the gaps, allowing them to remember a grateful patient who thanked them for enabling them to regain their dignity. If you are wondering where the PI is, it was on the adjoining page. It is often worth the extra expense to allow the ad the freedom to work.

SINGULAIR - for asthma

SingulairA new indication - so maintain the equity built up in the existing campaign and then add stuff to it. The image of the `One' support for patients has already expressed a strong differentiation and continues to link success to the extended indication. However, just in case, it's all spelled out in the sub-head and it has the benefit of making an immediate announcement to a mass market. Then we come to the `One airway' icon. I'm torn. I cannot but imagine that this is a contribution from elsewhere in the campaign, that doctors will understand it immediately without reading it because it is so familiar (the so called `silent detail'). Is it new news to think that patients with SAR might fail to mention it to their doctor?

2nd September 2008

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