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You can never take our freedom

'You can never take our freedom'. Who said that? Was it Braveheart, or was it every pharmaceutical creative team faced with a difficult brief that lacks a USP?

'You can never take our freedom.' Who said that? Was it Braveheart, or was it every pharmaceutical creative team faced with a difficult brief that lacks a USP?

I have written Ad lib before, for the UK-based sister publication to Pharmaceutical Marketing Europe, so this time I wanted to feature work by creative teams from other European countries.

This was going to involve a little more research. I had no idea what to expect. Were the 'rules' different outside the UK? Were things going to be a little more risquÈ, like so many commercials one sees when holidaying abroad?

I picked my ads from German publications, but my expectations were short-lived. The clichÈs were the same; the prescribing information was even bigger, possibly due to translation; and, of course, there they were, the same old depictions of 'freedom'.

For as long as I can remember, 'freedom' has featured in pharmaceutical advertising, if not in words, then almost certainly as visual metaphors that promise all sorts of wonderful post-treatment activity and quality of life to the lucky patient.

My rating scale is, therefore, based on my own visual metaphor of freedom: bent jail cell bars. The more 'breakouts', the better the use of any creative freedom...

APROVEL - for hypertension

FREEDOM! I hear the art director shout to the photo library researcher. This is a slightly different version of the original shot used in the UK. The model seems the same, still worshipping the 'pink arch,' but the dramatic, stormy sky has gone and the landscape has altered ever so slightly.

Either way, the whole thing has lost a great deal in translation. Any qualities the original advertisement had have gone, due to the use of the single page format, the consequent encroachment of white space, and the increase in the volume of type when changed to German.

While credit has to be given for sticking with the one global image (even if slightly altered), it's a shame the same can't besaid for the all-together weaker layout.

INEGY - hyperlipidaemia

FREEDOM! I hear the man in the speedboat cry. This ad has everything needed to keep the target audience well informed, but I'm afraid nothing to please the creative eye.

You can't fail to miss the percentage of lowered LDL-cholesterol and you can't fail to miss the product name, due to the double appearance of the logo style. However, you could be forgiven for not noticing the oh-so-clever huge icon being carved out by the boat's wake. Never mind the chicken and the egg; here we have what came first: the icon or the library shot?

One has to give the creative team the benefit of the doubt and assume they were under a great deal of duress and instruction. I don't know about cries of Freedom!, but I can certainly hear cries of how many logos do you need on one ad?

SYMBICORT - for asthma and COPD

FREEDOM! I hear the pink seagull squawk. This ad poses many questions and none more so than why not make the most of the four colours available instead of this poor duotone?

Surely, the messages of fresh air, freedom, poise and grace would have borne a lot more impact with a fantastic, full-colour National Geographic-style shot. Combine this with a subtle piece of typography and things could have been improved 10-fold.

Did the gull really need to be in the product colours and, if so, why detract from it by putting all the surrounding type in the same colour?

LEVEMIR - for diabetes

FREEDOM from having to do very much! I hear the model cry. Couldn't anyone have thought of a cleverer way of saying 'this insulin gives reliably predictable results', than three shots of the same dog being walked by the same patient cycling past the same scenic spot, with a crudely retouched change of jacket?

However, one would have to give marks for at least trying to follow the basic rules of design. The type, albeit plentiful, has had some consideration and takes the reader from the top left to the product name bottom right. The prescribing information fits snugly into the space made available with the use of boxes, and everything aligns neatly and carefully. Trouble is, this only serves to make me think that this is an ad that bypassed the creative team and went straight to the artwork studio.

RAPTIVA - for psoriasis

FREEDOM to trawl the photo libraries for an appropriate 'skin' shot! I hear the art director cry. Out of the five ads I've chosen to critique, this is probably the best of an unfortunate bunch. The colours and curved borders suggest some creative effort, although the writer probably got a little carried away (no doubt at the client's behest).

I can't help but think it would have been nice to maximise the well-chosen image and bleed it off both sides, rather than take the lazy way out and airbrush a space for the type.

Again, another ad that resembles a page from a sales aid, but at least this time some effort has been made to make it pleasing to the creative eye.

The Author
Steve Pinn is creative director at PAN Communications

2nd September 2008

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