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The ultimate road test

Did the geniuses responsible for the heart-stoppingly beautiful Aston Martin DB9 think 'we'll never get this one past the rules and regs'?

Did the geniuses responsible for the heart-stoppingly beautiful Aston Martin DB9 think 'we'll never get this one past the rules and regs'? Of course not, they set out with the knowledge that they would have to be deeply resourceful and imaginative to accommodate the complex and stringent rules governing car design, manufacture and road safety, to produce something that transcended them.

The ABPI and PAGB codes of practice are pretty daunting too. Admittedly, Aston's budget may have been slightly bigger than the average healthcare campaign spend, but I draw the comparison simply to illustrate the fact that resourceful minds deal successfully with externally imposed problems or limitations, challenge them and are still able to produce solutions of outstanding originality.

But it's not just a question of money. After all, the original Austin Mini was pure genius on a shoestring and has proved to be one of the world's most enduring brands. Why, then, does so little healthcare advertising benefit from
any of this inventiveness?

My forensic investigation of the sector reveals too many brands and their products to be the victims of poor diagnosis and prescription and, as a result, the inability to seduce the recipient with such ease as the Aston Martin's sweeping curves manage.

Some of the ads featured here, therefore, get left in the lay-by.

Click on images for a larger view

AllevynALLEVYN - wound dressing
A well constructed solution that dramatises wound management in a neat visual presentation without the need for excessive copy and yet still manages to be totally informative and relevant.

It's well art directed and conceived and has a `stand out' quality, with the simplicity and elegance of corporate style that competitors would do well to consider.

The copywriter has clearly decided not to indulge their ego in the headline and has gone for a neat summation of the benefit, although I think the sub-head is a bit unnecessary and a bit of an optional extra too far.

Nevertheless, it's a good-looking piece of work that will draw admiring glances.

MirenaMIRENA - contraceptive care
The general layout of this piece is a bit muddled, with the result that the central proposition of care-free contraception has been compromised by the bloody great sticker in the corner, which is the first thing that commands your attention, in the manner of an unwelcome parking ticket.

While the endorsement of NICE is no doubt a real plus, it should not be overshadowing the main message and, in effect, compromising what started out as a reasonably well-designed piece of communication with an amusing visual that does a workman-like job of presenting the product benefits.

XenicalXENICAL - for weight loss
This is one of a series of ads in a campaign that seems to be inspired by a self-indulgent preoccupation with the dark side.

I recall one of the previous executions featuring the Grim Reaper in a frying pan, presumably lurking there waiting to call time over a bacon butty. This one conjures up the psycho in the death mask from the Scream movies in the form of a chop waiting to take out those poor unfortunates with a bit of a weight loss problem.

It does, at least, have a discernible campaign style, although I would say it's more of a case of style over content. The creatives should perhaps add to their knowledge of cinematic genre and get back in the driving seat.

DoublebassDOUBLEBASE - for dry skin
A fine example of the literal over the lateral. This is a product of the 'that'll do' school of thinking and was a thought, if you can call it that, which should have been binned before anyone saw it.

The product name is excruciatingly realised as an embarrassingly badly conceived vehicle for a headline, which pays no tribute to the art of copywriting, together with the less than imaginative use of the typeface from the product label.

Memorable only for its awfulness.

PrevenarPREVENAR - vaccination
A decent stab at communicating the sense of loss that is wholly avoidable by taking preventative measures, and yet who is this ad talking to? It seems more appropriate in attempting to tug the heart strings of parents, rather than professionals who are well aware of the benefits of this course of action, and therefore this strategy makes no distinction, or discernible case for this product over any of its competitors.

The photography is a bit low budget and lacking in expression, and the layout and typography are once again from the 'that'll do' school of production. As the pay-off line to this less than successful ad suggests, 'Help stop it!'

2nd September 2008

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