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Ad Lib blog

Creative critiques of pharma and healthcare ads and campaigns

Know your audience

There’s a twist in this tale, as Andrew Durkan steps into the review chair…

A few years ago, I went to see a 45-minute talk on creativity by a well-known and highly respected ad man. Got to be some good stories, some sage advice, surely? He walked onto the stage, took out a thick pile of notes, leant on the lectern and began to read. 

About 500 people spent the next 43 minutes listening to the monotony of something that sounded like it could be some sort of science. The speaker checked his watch from time to time, then carried on.

When he got to within two minutes of his allotted time, he stopped, folded up the notes and said something like: "That wasn't very exciting was it? And yet, I've just read you a paper which last year won a Nobel Prize. It's more exciting and more important than anything anyone in this room will ever do. But, let's face it, you're the wrong audience. And that's really all I wanted to tell you: know your audience."

A good message: one that I would've appreciated more in five minutes, but good nevertheless.

Which leads me, rather clumsily, onto reviewing some ads. 

I couldn't bring myself to pick some ads and just assassinate them, so I've internet-travelled the world in search of the finest healthcare advertising the planet has to offer. 

So, this is the top end of the spectrum here. From all the thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of ads done across planet earth, these are three of the handful that made the Cannes Lions shortlist. Two deserve to be there. The other seems to have somehow slipped through. 

They all, completely accidentally, hail from Brazil. But they could work anywhere.

Anador – Boehringer Ingelheim



Anador – Boehringer Ingelheim

Agency: Borgh/Lowe, São Paulo

There’s a pub. And there’s a fight going on in the upstairs snooker room. But worry not, there’s a bunch of coppers about to enter downstairs, make their way upstairs, and break up the fight. And probably nick a few of the extremely naughty ones. I forgot to mention that the pub looks like a head. And there’s some headache tabs on the pavement outside. So, if your head was like a pub, having a headache is like a fight going on in the snooker room, and to solve it you need a group of policemen to come in and truncheon the culprits. And that, presumably, is what the headache tabs are like. I like the art direction, but that’s about it. My head is not a pub. Although it is sometimes to be found in one.

Naldecon – Bristol Myers Squibb



Agency: Fischer & Friends, São Paulo

My head is a head. Illustrated and cross-sectioned, but a head nevertheless. Inside my nasal passage, things are getting a bit congested with gooey stuff. I’m about to take a pill for it. But this is a magic pill. A pill that contains rabid little children who like to hoover up gooey stuff. There’s a story here, and you know what the outcome is going to be without having to be shown it. Me likey. Of course it’s a ridiculous idea, but it does make sense. And it’s fun. And it looks nice.

Cafiaspirina – Bayer



Agency: AlmapBBDO, São Paulo

This one is the best of the lot. An illustration of something that would give you a headache. Then a little twist that takes the headache up a notch. And the colours giving a key to which kind of headache requires which strength of headache tablet. It’s smart. It’s art directed in a way that perfectly illustrates that a good idea is infinitely superior to a fancy execution. And it brought a little smile to the face of an otherwise grumpy sod.

Article by
Andrew Durkan

creative director Havas Life Medicom

25th July 2013

From: Marketing



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