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Ad Lib blog

Creative critiques of pharma and healthcare ads and campaigns

The year of the snake

HAVAS Life London’s creative directors look at three campaigns and analyse what makes for strong creative thinking…

Well, we survived the end of the world. However, as we start another new year, we can expect the usual rash of predictions around what lies in store for the next 12 months.

This is the year of the snake according to the Chinese zodiac but perhaps any year with the number '13' stuck on the end should be viewed with trepidation? We've got NASA predicting potential solar flares that could disable the Earth's communications, we have the world's economists uncertain and apprehensive about the global economy, Nostradamus will no doubt weigh in with talk of World War III and the polar ice will be the thinnest it has ever been (as will the hair on Malcolm's head).

And what about the year ahead for us, do we predict worrying times for healthcare communications in 2013? In this changing world where technology accelerates us towards the future, is there a place left for us, and the creative ideas that we all cherish? Will the communications of the future still be appreciated for the quality of the concept that drives them? In 2013, will the creative idea still reign as king over its multi-channel empire, or will it all be about economics of implementation and not ideation? Are we predicting the end of creative as we know it?  

So what have good communications got in common? Like the best of the work we've reviewed here and like anyone born in the year of the snake, they are keen, cunning, intelligent and wise. And whatever we'll be doing in the future, we know that the idea will still be king. Of course we're always looking at new technologies and focusing on the latest communication channels, but we know that without a good idea supporting any deliverable, it's not worth one multi-channel cent. Effective communication will always rely on strong creative thinking and excellent implementation, whether we're talking digital, video or traditional media. We predict that 2013 will be no exception.

Let's look back at some of the 'big ideas' from 2012 and see if they provide any clues for the year ahead. 

Check out the snake for the rating.…

Sativex – MS Spasticity


Rattle Snake


MS Spasticity

Agency: Langland

Let’s start by looking at a traditional ad man’s ad.

Losing independence, being unable to perform even the most basic tasks, these are difficult and horrific concepts to accept. Reading about the effects of MS spasticity is sobering, but we can perhaps maintain our emotional guard more readily when exposed to the written word. But here the consequences of this insidious disease are captured in a way that hits the visual senses with a perhaps initially understated, but then razor-sharp and gut-churning clarity. The copy is there to complement; it doesn’t fight to make its own impact and so acts as a suitable foil to the power of the visual. The layout is balanced, controlled and considered. Overall, this is a concept that would make any agency proud and remind clients what an agency is hired for.

A great idea works in any media and this IS a great idea. The fact that we’re looking at a two-dimensional, non-digital example of the campaign doesn’t dilute the power of the core concept, or its potential to cut through, in whatever form it appears. When we frequently talk about the need for interactive communications, I defy anyone to deny that this connects on every level. This is an idea that stops you in your tracks and then profoundly moves you.

Publicis website




Publicis website

Agency: Publicis Life Brands Resolute

This piece is digital! It has the word ‘website’ in it, and for the more technically-minded geeks among us (actually, among you), they also show us binary code and a site-map algorithm, in different executions. However, above all, there is a great idea – a very simple, unexpected, unique and memorable idea.  And no matter where technology slithers and slides in the future, it’s the idea that will still hold all the byte!

NHS breast cancer awareness


Boa Constrictor


NHS breast cancer awareness

Agency: McCann Health

The breast ideas are simple. 

This example delivers a serious and deadly important communication. As Cancer Research UK cites: “Breast cancer is the third most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for 7 per cent of all cancer deaths. It is the second most common cause of cancer death among women (2010) in the UK, after lung cancer, accounting for around 15 per cent of female deaths from cancer.” 

The facts are hard and stark, the statistics are frightening and the ‘C’ word is one that no one really wants to confront. We’ve all lost someone to cancer. It’s a topic laced with hurt and perhaps, because of that, we still don’t adopt the common-sense precautions we really know that we should.

This piece is a very short video and the idea is so very simple; that’s what makes it so effective.  Two alarm bells that appear as an analogy to two breasts, with a succinct and easily understood communication that’s delivered with just the right tone (pun intended). It’s engaging without appearing trite, scary or condescending. A difficult subject, sensitively handled, that should signal the alarm bells of self-awareness for anyone.

The central core idea, with its direct visual analogy, is strong enough to demand attention from start to finish. It’s not only a smart creative idea it also makes for a really great awareness clip.

Article by
Lee Williams (left) and Malcolm Badger

joint creative directors at HAVAS Life London

7th January 2013


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