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PMGroup charity calendar 2010

PMGroup launches a competition for healthcare advertisers to prove they are a match for their consumer cousins

'2010' as a figureThere is much debate in the pharmaceutical marketing environment about the freedom of agencies to be creative within the regulatory boundaries of the ABPI Code. Constraints on communication and cautious marketers are often blamed by agencies for the proliferation of bland medical-style advertising that lacks consumer appeal.

Whether these claims are justified or not, there is no doubt that, in the minds of most, healthcare advertising is "sexy consumer's" less appealing wallflower cousin. Despite acclaim for numerous creative campaigns judged within the confines of the industry, let's be honest, if you were a college-leaver who had been offered a creative position by both a leading consumer and a healthcare agency, where would your immediate preference lie? The sad truth is most graduates are unaware still about the opportunities available to them in healthcare advertising.

So what can we do about it? This is a question that PMGroup has been asking for a long time. Sure, we can write articles on the subject, as we do, and we can recognise excellence in communication through awards, but at the end of the day, while valuable and important to the industry, are these activities not preaching to the converted? What other vehicle could we use to tackle head-on the debate surrounding creativity – or the lack thereof – in healthcare advertising?

With the introduction of the Annual Charity Calendar competition, PMGroup believes it has found a way to address these continued concerns. The calendar competition provides agencies an opportunity to work with complete creative freedom and showcase the results to a decision-maker audience in the healthcare industry. In short, the competition provides them with a chance to show just what they can do. Not only that, it also provides charities with a valuable voice to market.

In its inaugural year, the competition is still a work in progress, and while, this year, entrants had complete freedom to pick their own charity, the brief next year will be tightened to focus on a few selected charity partners. According to Lee Tomkins, director of Migraine Action Association and one of this year's judges, many smaller charities don't have agencies to represent them and are intimidated by the process of having to appoint one, which falls out of their area of expertise. These charities would benefit from the chance to work with PMGroup in compiling a brief, the outputs of which could translate into an active campaign, she added.

The process
Agencies taking part in the competition were invited to produce creative interpretations for the charity of their choice. These were subjected to judging by a panel of respected marketers and charity representatives, led by founding partner at Passionbrand, Derek Day. The judges chose the 12 best designs from the entries received to appear in a desk calendar for distribution to 1,600 senior industry decision makers. All entries received appear in The Gallery. The 12 preferred entries will also appear for the duration of the month they represent in the PMLiVE calendar, and in July will be entered into a newly-created category at the IPA Awards, where an overall winner will be chosen. The charity for which the winning campaign was created will receive £2010, donated by PMGroup.

"The competition provides a win-win situation for all involved," said Mark Savage, managing director of PMGroup. "While there were only 19 entries this year, we have no doubt that once people see the results, the competition will gather momentum and, before long, being chosen for the calendar will be a prestigious and sought-after acknowledgement of creative excellence. We are very grateful to all those agencies that believed in the strength and potential of this concept and supported us in this its inaugural year."

The criteria against which judges selected their favourites were empathy, focus and surprise. Derek Day explained: "A winning ad must have impact, be credible and simple. We needed to find a means of establishing what makes something good, especially if the work is not aimed at you. In the end, we decided on empathy, i.e. the ability to intuitively feel what they feel and show understanding; focus, which is alignment between the message and the need, it respects my time and is simple; and surprise. It is easy to combine empathy and focus, but focus and surprise are very rare and difficult to do together. This combination, however, makes for winning advertising."

Each judge chose their three favourite submissions and then presented them to the table for debate. Surprisingly, there were no duplicates in the favourites chosen, which stimulated much discussion as to the creative merits and challenges of each entry. The general consensus at the end of the adjudication process was, however, that a creative standard was missing and that many opportunities had been missed.

"We felt a lot of the ads had an interesting story to tell, with which you could do more," Derek Day said. "It would have helped to have had an originating brief with real constraints, as there is such a thing as too much freedom. A lack of constraints makes it hard for creative people to put something down. There needs to be a critical voice." This is something that will be addressed next year.

Asked if he felt the healthcare sector's creativity was hindered by its regulatory environment, Mr Day commented: "It would be awful to say industry imposing constraints is the reason for a lack of creativity. The restrictions should, in fact, be a stimulus for creative spirit. It is in confronting challenges that we are forced to be our most creative," he said.

PMGroup would like to thank the following judges for giving their time and sharing their expertise so freely:
• Derek Day – founding partner, Passionbrand
• Rae Burdon – chief operating officer, Advertising Association
• Anna Maxwell – director consumer health, Fizz Marketing Management
• Lee Tomkins – director, Migraine Action Association
• Colette Murphy – portfolio manager, Pfizer

All the entries for the 2010 calendar can be viewed in The Gallery

14th December 2009

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