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Ad Lib blog

Creative critiques of pharma and healthcare ads and campaigns

The proof is in the pudding

Are we getting the message across asks Neil Padgett? Three ads and one falls short for Neil, who gives it a one-star rating

Since leaving art college in the early 80s, art and design has played a major part in my life both at work and play. I'm interested in most things art-related and recently came across a programme on TV where the highly successful and controversial artist Jeff Koons was being interviewed.

One thing in particular struck a chord.

When asked: “Where the art is?” in his work, JK replied: “The art is in the viewer. The object is inanimate; it has no importance in the world. It's what happens inside the viewer – that's where the art is.”

Advertising in general, not just healthcare and pharma, isn't too dissimilar in this respect – albeit inspiring the viewer to react favourably to a proposition based on insight and sound strategic thinking. However, it is this reaction of the 'viewer' (or target audience) that is paramount.  

An old friend of mine is a fantastic artist and we recently made contact again after some time. He showed me his latest work, which had changed direction from vivid and strong-coloured canvasses to much smaller black and white line drawings. I was impressed with his use of a different medium and the powerful images I was reacting to, so I asked him what had taken him down this route. His answer was quite simple – he had fallen on hard times and couldn't afford the materials he once used for his big canvasses.

To some degree I get the feeling that a lot of journal advertising has also fallen on harder times than in previous years – and if this is true are we managing, like my friend, to adapt and not sacrifice the power of our work?

Let's see.




There’s no holding back here with this powerful presence for Canesten Combi and Duo. You can see that the creative team just went for it with a no-nonsense campaign delivering the simple message bold and fast. It’s not pushing any boundaries and it’s not clever… and some might be put off by its bold, retro style that’s from a less PC era - but the illustration is well crafted and treads this fine line neatly for a 21st century audience.

It is what it is – and nowadays when quite a lot of ads either fade into the background or overcomplicate things, you can’t blame them from hitting you with a standout campaign that’s super confident for this well-known brand.

Not groundbreaking - but message understood, loud and clear.
The illustrator was worth every penny.




Now this ad I react to – can’t miss it. Disfiguring the face with the headline is impactful and emotive. The message is simple and clear and challenges the viewer.

What a great choice of model too - natural and believable. Piercing eyes that beg you to do the best you can for her and patients like her. Don’t get me wrong, this idea isn’t new but it is simple and very well executed.

The copy is short, confident and to the point. If I’m being picky the last line could be better. The call to action, however, runs out of steam (why!?) with no website or microsite to visit - this calls out for a Duac Challenge microsite!

“Look into my eyes…”
Power from a relatively modest photo shoot.




As a creative my first feeling is that I will like this ad. The shot of the truck would please many photographers and art directors. Then reality kicks in.

What is going on? I can understand that a yellow ‘Zineryt’ chainsaw has powerfully chopped down a telegraph pole, which in effect has stopped an American-style truck laden with acne in its tracks… but why?

Nothing to me makes sense with this ad. No real headline to help us on our way but just three bullet points nicked from the detail aid. And the more I scrutinise it the worse it gets… ‘Zitmobile’ neatly added to the number plate?

Now I ain’t sayin’ nuffin but I don’t think this was originally created for a UK market; even so it will never make sense. The only thing the originators can hope for is that the audience might recall the name Zineryt every time they see a red truck or manhandle a yellow chainsaw.

Art for art’s sake - a truck that doesn’t deliver in more ways than one.
Not a cheap image to create. What a waste.

Article by
Neil Padgett

creative director, Halesway

14th December 2011


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