Please login to the form below

Not currently logged in

Ad Lib blog

Creative critiques of pharma and healthcare ads and campaigns

If you’re happy and you know it, do some work

Dean Woolley has plenty to smile about. His three choices to critique have all got five-star praise…

It's Wednesday. The pitch is on Friday and you have nothing. Zip. Nada. Not unless you count that heap of scrunched up concepts you may have to un-scrunch pretty quick if you don't come up with a proper idea soon. What are you going to do?

My advice is simple: take the morning off. Have a nice long stroll, look at trees and stuff, or better still, put your feet up on your desk and watch some comedy on YouTube. Don't, whatever you do, focus on the job in hand. All that concentrating and sweating it out is for amateurs.

Anyone who knows anything about creativity and neurophysiology (alright, anyone like me who's just read Imagine, Jonah Lehrer's book on the subject) will tell you the key to making the deep insights and connections needed to spark big ideas is to be distracted and happy. Now, I know it's not easy being distracted and happy in situations where fearful and panicky would seem to be the more natural responses, but we've got to do it. That's why they pay us the medium bucks they pay us in healthcare advertising.

So in that spirit, I'm going to dedicate this Ad Lib to positivity and fun. There'll be no trashing of typefaces, no mocking of metaphors and not even a hint of haughtiness. I'm going to go on the Internet, find some pharma work I love and be utterly upbeat about it.

Just give me half an hour…

…Right, I'm back. What (apart from the fact that an awful lot of agencies appear to have the Viagra account) did I find? Well, there's lots of really insightful, intelligent, engaging, funny, stunningly art-directed work out there. So what if most of it has probably never run. It still makes me happy.

Here are three examples to cheer us all up into a creative frame of mind…

Preparation H – Pfizer Consumer Health



Preparation H

Agency: AbbaSez, USA

I love the devastating simplicity of this. It’s a product for sore bottoms. Every double page spread has a crack down the middle. Bingo.

And as a copywriter I have a particular fondness for ads that don’t need copy. As I’ve always said, we’re not paid by the word; we’re paid for all the crappy words we leave out.

Yes, I know Preparation H is a gift of a brief, and every advertising student probably has a concept for it somewhere in the portfolio. But surely the fact that everyone’s having a go makes it harder to do something truly original. So I think this Prep H team should stand up and take a bow.

Solpadeine – GlaxoSmithKline




Agency: Ogilvy & Mather, Ukraine

What’s not to love about this?

Product demonstration? Tick. Nice red pack shot? Tick. Skateboarder about to get hurt? Tick.

Like the Preparation H ad this succeeds because of what it chooses to leave out. They’ve avoided the usual target metaphor and there isn’t a line that says ‘hit pain where it hurts’. It’s all good.

But the reason I chose this ad is because it always gladdens the heart to see something you care about deeply look as good as Solpadeine does here. And for the record, this is a brand I love.

(Don’t tell me I can get the same active ingredients in an equally red pack for lots less cash; Solpadeine and me go way back. After everything we’ve been through together (hangovers mostly), how could I even look at another co-codamol?)

Gelomyrtol – Pohl Boskamp




Agency: Milk, Lithuania

An insightful way to look at any brief is to think of the disease or illness as a character in the life of the sufferer. Is it an abusive partner, a playground bully, an embarrassing parent or that irritating twerp from accounts to whom we should never have given our phone number? It works because we’re human beings; it’s our instinct to anthropomorphise. That’s why we talk to our cars. That’s why the playwright Dennis Potter named his cancer ‘Rupert’. 

It’s always a relationship thing and this ad uses that thought beautifully.

The endline ‘Break up with sinusitis’ is probably the best phrase ever to have the word ‘sinusitis’ in it. The photography has the perfect tone of mock solemnity and the art director has made the copywriter’s words all nice and big. Happy days.

Article by
Dean Woolley

creative director, woolley pau gyro

19th June 2012


Subscribe to our email news alerts

Featured jobs


Add my company
The Difference Collective

Welcome to the Difference Collective – a healthcare communications team of 80+ talented experts who Deliver Differently. We’re purpose-built around...

Latest intelligence

The role of digital health technology tools in supporting medical adherence
How DHT-based digital interventions can help to support patients and improve adherence...
How To Tell A Better Silent Story
They say a picture's worth 1,000 words, which is incredibly helpful when telling a silent story....
Main image1
Global leaders in digital channels
Exploring why UK field teams are global leaders in digital channels is key to better understanding the changes in omnichannel engagement...