Please login to the form below

Not currently logged in

Ad Lib blog

Creative critiques of pharma and healthcare ads and campaigns

In my day son...

Tough talking from the Hennigs (Piotr and son Sam). Join the debate by commenting or voting for the three campaigns they have reviewed…

My son Sam has just started working in pharma advertising, so his view on the current crop of ads is refreshingly unblighted, unlike my own which has been ravaged by over 30 years on the frontline. 

Back in the '80s when Thatcher was still a woman, Boy George was sort of a boy and apples were something you ate… I came across the worst ad of all time. 

It was for Ponstan, a menorrhagial flooding treatment. It consisted of a badly drawn dam being overwhelmed by torrents of blood. STOP MENORRHAGIAL FLOODING the headline screamed. Surely this was the low point for an industry I had only just entered? From now on the only way could be up, I thought.

In the intervening years much has indeed changed. 

Sam and I have been looking through the journals (noticed how small they're getting?) for ammunition for this article, and I'm wondering if it's changed enough, or will Sam have his 'Ponstan' moment too?

We're both surprised at how few ads are well crafted, pertinent, eye-catching and MEMORABLE (for the right reasons). I have a theory that it's not always the agency's fault. Clients are not always brave enough to go for something less than 'bloody' obvious… and then proceed to 'design by committee' the life out of even that.

If you need the business you have to go with it… and so you compromise.

I'm not being harsh on the agencies who produced these (unless they deserve it, and only they will know).

Now, fathers and sons don't always see eye to eye on things so we decided to write our own reviews of these three ads.

Dermax – Dermal Laboratories



Dermax – Dermal Laboratories

Dad’s Dermax   

OK… I can see what they did here. Lift off. I get it: it’s not rocket science – or maybe? To be fair this is a follow on from the famous penguin in a snow shaker. The snow had for some mysterious reason been lifted up by a magnet. Of course! Penguins live in metal snow, are famous for scaly skin and keen astronauts in training for the first snow-shaker moon landing. So that’s all clear then. 

And what does young Sam think?

In the calm, still air the stars twinkle like the brush strokes of god amongst the deepest blue of the unending, awe-inspiring vastness of space. Can anything improve upon this extraordinary scene? A penguin in a snow globe, powered into space by therapeutic shampoo, perhaps? Perhaps not.

Agency: unconfirmed

Spiriva – Boehringer Ingelheim



Spiriva – Boehringer Ingelheim

Hennig Senior’s mental block… 

I kept coming back to this… looking for clues. Had the bench shrunk or had the boy grown? I think grown, which would explain why his head was cut off. Had he won a medal for having the saddest-looking dog? Was the bench valuable and hence chained to a post for security? Where was the link to COPD? But, and here I am coming back to it again, why is the bench so small? In my day son at least things were bleedin’ obvious!

Chip off the old block writes…

It took a while to realise I wasn’t being asked to donate just £2 a month to the RSPCA, nor looking at a poster for the film ‘Sleepy Hollow 2’ – this was my in fact my introduction to Spiriva. This headless man spends his days sat on a bench meant for a child, next to a dog that clearly hates him. Still, at least his local council has made sure nobody can nick his beloved bench. He really is the true winner. Lucky he had Spiriva, otherwise he might be tempted to jump out the open window they randomly provide at the bottom right.

Agency: unconfirmed

Zineryt – Astellas Pharma



Zineryt – Astellas Pharma

I don’t understand these young’uns

In my day the only decent thing to do with a nicked trolley was to chuck it in the river! No self-respecting hooligan would drink 50 cans of Tennents and then neatly stack them in a field. Oh and I bet you it was the Medics who insisted on the pansy health and safety wear – take the joy out of everything! It would be more fun squeezing zits.

Zinnerit innit

Yellow teenagers recklessly running down a grassy hillock towards some well-placed but badly drawn cans, please, oh please, tell me they are wearing safety helmets? See red? Think yellow. See yellow? Think, teenage boy pushing a scared girl down a hill in a stolen shopping trolley towards some cans. 

Agency: unconfirmed

Article by
Piotr and Sam Hennig

creative director and account executive, CAN advertising

4th June 2013

From: Marketing



Subscribe to our email news alerts

Featured jobs


Add my company

OncoSec is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on developing cytokine-based intratumoral immunotherapies to stimulate the body's immune system to target...

Latest intelligence

Influenza – the risk to vulnerable populations
Why we can't get complacent about flu vaccination...
Alzheimer’s Research UK highlights socio-economic inequalities in dementia risk
The charity aims to improve the number of women participating in dementia research and grow awareness of dementia risk factors...
Data security
Concerns about data security are building a strong case for clinical mobility in EMEA
Electronic medical records have transformed the storage of sensitive information but how can the healthcare sector continue to protect patient and staff data?...