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The unsung heroes

We've both been around the block a few times; we've worked for some of the largest agencies in the world and created campaigns for most types of products

We've both been around the block a few times; we've worked for some of the largest agencies in the world and created campaigns for most types of products.

In the last decade or so we've been doing more and more drugs (it's a symptom of getting older), so we've worked with, and alongside, many talented creatives from all sorts of backgrounds and disciplines.

In all that time, we've never met anyone who wanted to create a bad ad. On the contrary, everyone we have known came into the business to produce the most memorable and effective advertising ever. As we all know, to our emotional cost, it doesn't always turn out that way, despite our best intentions and accrued knowledge.

Every art director and writer reading this knows what a good ad looks like. Every art director and writer reading this knows what a bad ad feels like. Rather than tell you what you already know, we'd like to salute the also-rans by offering some possible scenarios as to how some of the ads you don't often see in these pages, managed to appear in other pages.

It's a tough business requiring courage and determination, so we've decided to praise the unsung heroes of the creative department and award medals where due. Only you will know if you deserve them.

Vagifem - atrophic vaginitis

vagifemWe imagine the team was very excited to work on this brief; what could be more challenging?

The original concept probably involved a beautiful shot of a gorgeous woman's torso from the waist down covered in droplets of water and some strategically placed autumn leaves.

Unfortunately, the visual, although far tamer than photos of unspeakable conditions that would have run alongside it, fell foul of the APBI nudity rule; after which, the brief changed.

It was now apparently about mathematics rather than effectiveness and the client insisted that the strapline replace the clever headline and a simple sum replace the Venus image.

The team fought and fought every inch of the way and even created three alternative campaigns. Alas, the ad had to be printed immediately for a conference and all was lost.

Still, at least they kept the leaves and the droplets.

Click on images for a larger view

Idrolax - constipation

IdrolaxHang on, what's this? Same old 'this stuff makes you go to the toilet' brief. But wait. The experienced team understands the need for simplicity in an overcrowded environment and is able to persuade the client that GPs don't have the time or the inclination to read copy.

They have employed a decent model maker and photographer, rather than attempted to retouch a stock library shot, to create an effective, well-crafted ad that everyone can be proud of. It wins several much-deserved awards. If only it was always that simple.

Carry on troops.

Viagra - erectile dysfunction

ViagraThe whole world knows the name of this product and what this product does; there are even jokes about it. That puts it in a unique position (no pun intended), whereby you can have a bit of fun with it and create the sort of ads that stand out like an erection on a nudist beach said the person who presented the original concepts. That's our guess anyway.

Whatever happened, we can only assume that someone, somewhere, got scared. Perhaps someone was ripe for promotion and didn't want to rock the boat. Perhaps someone was new and lacking in confidence. Whatever it was, it was an opportunity missed, but make sure you keep hold of the ideas lads - they'll come good one day.

Singulair - mild to moderate asthma

SingulairThe team slaved over this brief; they worked late, neglected their families and suffered migraines as a result of excessive Magic Marker inhalation, so desperate were they to do an asthma ad that didn't look like all the others.

The campaign, we imagine, was the fruit of their labours, involved three double-page spreads and eye-catching visuals of wind tunnels and multi-coloured chiffon scarves. Marvellous!

When they presented internally, the account man dropped the bombshell that the ad was already booked, single page.

But there are too many messages! screamed the brave lads, it'll look like a dog's dinner!

The client pays you for colouring in, retorts the suit and suddenly there's a huge, cowboy-style fistfight. The team gets fired, but goes on to do award-winning work at a rival agency. Finally, freelancers produce the ad; they put in everything that is asked of them, take the money and run.

Movicol - chronic constipation

MovicolConstipation - another difficult and challenging brief - but we reckon the ad that the team probably created, involving a photograph of white smoke coming from the Vatican chimney, was a definite 'shake and take' at the next PM Society Awards.

Of course, there were other good ideas and so the client decided to use research to help steer it towards the right one. The research company needed four concepts to test, so the ad you're looking at now was whizzed off to make up numbers and make the post.

The doctors couldn't decide, so they did the whole process again. Luckily, the second group of GPs loved the smoke ad.

Unluckily, the entire production budget had been used to pay for the research, so they had to proceed with the cheapest option. Totally disillusioned, the team quit the business, drank heavily for several months and then started a research company.

2nd September 2008

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