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Ad Lib blog

Creative critiques of pharma and healthcare ads and campaigns

Cut Above the Rest

Chris Eich shares his thoughts – and an Edward de Bono quote – on what makes winning creative work. Find out who gets his “creative excellence” vote?

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way”
Edward de Bono

The 'established pattern' of creative communications to doctors gives rise to some common – and all too often valid – criticisms, including:They insult doctors' intelligence

  • Are clichéd, unsophisticated
  • Are too direct, failing to engage the reader
  • Keep using obvious visual metaphors
  • Use happy patients as a fail-safe visual

But why should advertising to doctors be the ugly sibling of campaigns to the consumer?

Sure, pharmaceuticals have regulations to follow, but then so do products in other sectors, such as automotives, food, and alcohol. What really perpetuates the relative mediocrity of pharma ads is the ingrained conservatism of both audience and advertiser towards promotional communications.

Of course, the medical journal advertisement has never been the major part of a campaign for a therapeutic brand and is even less important in today's world of diverse media. However, the single page (or screen) expression of a brand remains a critical encapsulation of brand identity.

Pharma ads that break free from the 'established pattern' really stand out, win awards, and set a standard to aim for in all our creative communications to the medical profession.

I've chosen three current ads that show how creative excellence is alive and well – even if nestled amidst the egregious – in medical advertising.

AmBisome – Gilead



AmBisome – Gilead

Agency: Langland

The stark, practically photojournalistic, image—stripped of all distractions, even (almost) of colour – emphasises the gravitas of the clinical scenario. The focus is in the world of physicians and their connection to their patients.

Once arrested by such impactful visual communication, the headline calls upon the doctor to do more than win the immediate battle. I’m sure the body copy would gain high readership, right through to its single-minded conclusion, “…it helps survivors survive”.

Often stacking copy in a headline makes for a difficult read, but here that rule is broken to increase the impact of the words. Even the typesetting has a symmetrical elegance that works with the phrasing.

Leaf through a medical journal and this ad really stands out from the regular style of communications – and by using an everyday clinical situation! Brilliant.

Genotrophin GoQuick – Pfizer



Genotrophin GoQuick – Pfizer

Agency: Nitrogen

A picture to engage the heart of any reader! In the headline we read what the little girl is thinking. Even if she can’t tie those laces yet, the humour and warmth help communicate the underlying seriousness of accurate dosing of growth hormone.

The bright colours and clean lines of the image imbue the brand, both ingredient and administration device, with optimism and hope.

The message of simple, accurate dosing is communicated with emotion and intelligence.

Prialt – Eisai



Prialt – Eisai

Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Health

Such an unusual and intriguing visual compels the reader to find out more. Impact doesn’t need to be aggressive. Here the woman’s expression is so powerful – what’s going through her mind?

Long copy is rarely used in pharma advertising, probably due to the belief that doctors won’t have the time or inclination to read it, but, like the rest of us, they will read copy when sufficiently enticed (remember, doctors are people too!). And they’ll keep reading if it strikes an emotional chord.

The copy, handwritten poetic couplets, invites readership and answers questions raised by the image. The ad doesn’t require a headline: the first line of the copy is an excellent brand promise – with Prialt you can limit pain without limiting the patient.

Overall, this is a stylishly crafted ad that, again, bucks the trend of convention.

Article by
Chris Eich

associate creative director, Kane & Finkel Healthcare Communications

2nd April 2012


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