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Ad Lib blog

Creative critiques of pharma and healthcare ads and campaigns

Dig deep: turning emotion into action

Life's Reg Manser gives his take on three recent disease awareness campaigns for charities

Agencies love working on disease awareness campaigns because they allow you to tug heartstrings, jerk tears and manipulate emotions. When created on behalf of charities the main purpose is to turn emotion into action, persuading the public to dig deep in their pockets and raise money for research or patient support. But there are other reasons for disease awareness – to educate, change attitudes or lobby for action.

The best ads do more than just draw attention to the problem. They burrow deep inside the issue to reveal undiscovered insights about the condition: 'hidden truths' that add an extra dimension to the campaign.

What's surprising is that ads for the drugs that solve these problems often lack the same level of insight. Ads for cancer drugs, for example, have even more emotional capital to play with, because the treatments can make the difference between life and death. But the emotional narrative is often hidden under layers of data and survival curves.

Regulatory constraints may also prevent the core insight from shining through. Facts are important, of course, but communication is most powerful when it is based on an insight that connects the problem with the solution.

The ads below are selected because they engage our empathy by drilling down to identify the seam of gold that makes the reader feel, think and act.

Sensory overload – National Autistic Society TV commercial

Author

Public

Autism is a condition that doesn’t evoke universal empathy. This may be because the condition is defined by the person’s lack of empathy with other people, leading to social isolation and inability to interact with others. So it’s unusual to see an ad that takes the point of view of the person with autism. This advert looks at autism through the eyes and ears of people with the condition, who frequently experience sensory sensitivity.

It asks “What’s it like to be inside the head of someone who lives with autism?” in an insightful and thought provoking way.

The girl who couldn’t cry - Waterislife.com video

Author

Public

This video also takes the point of view of a person affected by a condition, seeing the world through their eyes. In this case it’s a little girl living in a slum without clean water. The insight is that extreme dehydration means you can’t even produce enough tears to cry. It’s a powerful emotional message. And to turn emotion into action, the campaign is linked to a “Drinkable Book” – a manual with a built-in filter that makes it safe to drink water from virtually any source.

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.

Pancreatic cancer campaign – Pancreatic Cancer Action

Author

Public

Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive malignancy with a notoriously poor prognosis. It’s a diagnosis of despair for both patients and oncologists. This campaign featured pancreatic cancer patients saying “I wish I had breast cancer” (or testicular cancer) because those diagnoses offer a much higher chance of survival. 

The campaign was undoubtedly hard-hitting and emotionally involving, but it attracted lots of criticism (including over 100 complaints to the ASA) because it was felt to trivialise other cancers. Although the campaign succeeded in highlighting the need for early diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, it alienated readers by pitting different cancer charities against each other in a battle for sympathy.


Article by
Reg Manser

Chief Creative Officer, Life, proud member of Indigenus Network. Email him reg@life-healthcare.com

10th June 2014

From: Marketing

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