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My super hero

We all want our brands to reach iconic status, so what better way to judge the potential of a brand's advertising than to see how it measures up to Che Guevara, a true international icon.

When I was asked to write Ad Lib this month I knew exactly what scoring system I was going to use. In recent years I have become a bit of a fan of Che Guevara and since his death in the late sixties he has become a true international icon. His image has been appropriated by revolutionaries everywhere, not to mention dozens of bars and the odd brand of vodka.

We all want our brands to reach iconic status, so what better way to judge the potential of a brand's advertising than to see how it measures up to Che? Talk about giving yourself enough rope!

Still, once I had decided on my scoring scheme I instantly ran into a problem; namely, that there are very few ads running at the moment that are likely to achieve anything like iconic status for their brands. The few examples I did find had been recently reviewed on these pages.

Then, flicking through the pages of Nursing Times, having given up on the mainstream GP titles, I found my inspiration. A truly iconic brand with a fantastic piece of advertising. Now, what else could I findÖ

Honda (Hate Something Change Something)

Now I know that these are the pages of Pharmaceutical Marketing magazine and this is an ad for a car manufacturer, but hear me out. This ad is in here for all those people who still persist in arguing that pharmaceutical advertising is somehow a world apart from consumer advertising and that we don't need to worry about trying to raise our general standard to nearer that of consumer targeted brands. Rubbish!

Here is a piece of consumer advertising invading our very own domain, snatching the attention of nurses away from wound dressings and catheterisation, and most importantly, delivering a highly effective piece of communication.

This is the first time that I have seen this ad in print, but I already love the TV work that I'm sure you've all seen and found yourselves singing along to ('Hate something, change something, make something betterrrrrrrrrr!'). The whole campaign is based on a key insight; that the majority of drivers, and even Honda's own chief engineer, hate smelly, noisy, rattling diesel cars.

But Honda has focused this hatred and turned it into something positive. Sheer brilliance. Good advertising is all about insight, and this campaign has it in bucket loads.

Christian Aid (Doll)

Flick through nine pages of the most recent issue of Nursing Times and the next ad really hits you. I have heard it argued that Charity advertising is easy to do. There's the opportunity to get really emotive about the charity's good work and people will always respond to emotional ads concerning the less fortunate.

Having said that, it is also very easy to get charity ads wrong, going over the top with the guilt and turning readers away, or too much schmaltz, making the campaign seem unreal or disconnected.

In my view this ad strikes the right balance and is another very effective piece of communication. A strong idea with well written copy, executed with bravery.

As a footnote, this industry often deals with very emotive diseases and illnesses and we are appealing to our audience for their help, ie asking healthcare providers to prescribe or recommend our products.I believe there is a lot we can learn from the wealth of good charity advertising.

Nicorette

This final entry from Nursing Times is the first ad in this particular issue for a pharmaceutical brand. The ad for Nicorette is clearly targeted at a broad healthcare professional audience as it also appears extensively in the GP press.

I don't know if this ad has been created by the same agency that created the consumer campaign featuring the 'evil cigarettes' that lurk in the shadows waiting to pounce on unsuspecting quitters, but if it is, they've let themselves down.

While the consumer campaign approaches the difficulties of giving up with humour and wit, not to mention a healthy dose of cartoon violence, this ad falls into all the traps of 'typical' healthcare advertising; the creative element from the consumer campaign is poorly utilised; the ad is smothered in unnecessary copy that labours the point (do you really have to say the brand is 'smart' three times?); and includes 'Product Information' for a GSL product. Why? A strong consumer brand with a generic 'healthcare advertising' approach. What a shame.

Inspra

When I showed the page containing this ad to my partner, Lisa, she asked: Where's the Ad? She went on to describe it as a grey bra, you know, one that's old, well worn and probably should have been thrown out some time ago. It's so comfortable you can't bear to get shot of it, but you'd be embarrassed if anyone saw it.

The real shame here is that the ad is for such a great product. Inspra doesn't have a marginal speed or efficacy benefit to make the most out of, instead this drug has demonstrated a 15 per cent reduction in mortality. Inspra saves lives! That's the sort of brief most agencies would die for.

So how has Inspra ended up with an ad so bland that it just melts into the background? Perhaps the client and agency felt it was enough to simply state 'New Inspra is lifesaving' in the headline.

They may be right, but I think this should have been the start of the communication, not the end of it. Inspra may achieve iconic status, but I don't believe that this advertising will help it get there.

Vaniqa

Now here's a subject that needs to be treated with tact and sensitivity. Female hirsutism isn't life threatening, but it can be very upsetting and even psychologically damaging to women that suffer from it.

Any product that can help slow the progression of excessive facial hair, especially one that is topical and hence presumably avoids unpleasant systemic side effects, should be welcomed.

So, how to approach this brief? May I respectfully suggest that taking a glamorous model who clearly has the most flawless skin, then adding a Che Guevara-style 'bum fluff' beard is not the best way to demonstrate empathy and understanding for the patient! This ad made my blood boil with its crass, patronising content. I'd better stop here before I start foaming at the mouthÖ

The Author
Alex Fone is group account head at Langland

2nd September 2008

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