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A delicate matter?

Gerry Smith, creative director, and Rachel Underwood, creative copywriter, of eurocomhealthcare, assess ads aimed at women

Female hands holding some flower petals"What went wrong down below… you just shut your mouth and turned up the wireless," Victoria Wood once said in her no-nonsense Northern accent. Hopefully, we've since progressed from a time when delicate issues were considered taboo.

As you well know, working in the healthcare industry means you can't afford to be prudish about the human body and the weird and wonderful afflictions that can arise.

We've been working closely with a female health charity to develop a new campaign and it's had us thinking about the subject matter. When devising a new concept to address delicate topics, it doesn't mean that we can't be creative. Perhaps what is needed is a more insightful approach that doesn't shy away from the subject, but at the same time is tasteful and sensitive.

It's certainly a fine balance to achieve. We browsed a handful of female health ads to see what's been making waves in the industry, rating them on the arm candy scale — from a coveted Fendi clutch all the way down to a bargain Primark carrier.


MIRENA — intrauterine contraceptive device


Mirena advert

Rachel: The headline could work harder, but I like the bright and modern execution. You wouldn't immediately recognise this as an ad for a contraceptive, but maybe that's good as it differentiates Mirena from the competition.

Gerry: This ad suffers from that old cliché of the headline telling you what the visual is showing you, but it's nicely art-directed and uses the letterbox swish to separate the PI and image very tastefully. Overall it's an aspirational ad with a simple message that conveys benefits for GPs and patients beautifully.

Arm candy rating: a much sought-after Fendi clutch


REPADINA — vaginal dryness

Rachel: This addresses a sensitive subject matter tastefully and artistically, but it would have been amazing if they'd had the budget for an actual photoshoot. There's also a lot of copy in this ad that fights for my attention, which is a shame. Trying to say too much, I feel, dilutes the single-minded proposition.

Gerry: When I first saw this it reminded me of the film poster for the current B-movie Piranha 3D; perhaps not the most sensitive of mis-perceptions. For me this ad talks more to the consumer than the prescriber and therefore misses the mark somewhat. I always find the use of flashes, circles and so on rather messy, but here their placement has been nicely considered. And of course there's the ubiquitous swish.

Repadina advert

Arm candy rating: a Debenhams designer bag


VESICARE — overactive bladder


Rachel: I struggle to understand the relevance of being in Venice in a cocktail dress: the concept just seems a bit too removed from reality for me.

Gerry: The first thing I noticed was the swish, which seems to be a pre-requisite design element for ads with a female bias. I also struggled with this; the headline is completely detached from the visual, both physically and emotionally. I wondered if there is a visual analogy going on: are the whooping gondoliers analogous to the drug's mode of action? But Rachel pointed out that they're panicking, while the main character remains relaxed — courtesy of Vesicare. 


Arm candy rating: a practical Primark carrier


VANIQA — female facial hirsutism

Rachel: While the advertisers could hardly show an image of a bearded lady, the close-up photography certainly stops readers in their tracks. It's a clean and simple execution and the copy is concise, but maybe the typography could have been a little more imaginative.

Gerry: I found this instantly striking. The headline (moustache) immediately highlights Vaniqa's indication and effect while the strapline (beard) neatly conveys the emotional benefits of the drug's action. It's all very clean, clear and to the point; my only quibble is the placement of the logo cluster in the top right, which jars a little for me.


Arm candy rating: an enviable Mulberry shopper

QLAIRA — combined oral contraceptive

Qlaira advert

Rachel: This is a very safe concept that would never offend. The headline taps into the trend to promote a harmonious solution that works with the body, but the brown and yellow hues just remind me of the 70s… and not in a good way. This makes the ad look dated, which I think is a shame.

Gerry: And the 'swish' is back. I find little here to engage with, apart from a pretty lady looking at a headline, which tells us that her new contraceptive is 'close to her nature' but not what her 'nature' is. There is a big idea in here, as 'natural' is a compelling concept in the female health arena, but it is frustratingly under-developed.


Arm candy rating: a run-of–the-mill Marks and Spencer bag

Gerry and RachelThe Authors
Gerry Smith
, creative director, and Rachel Underwood, creative copywriter, of eurocomhealthcare, assess ads aimed at women.

To comment on this article, email 

Ad Lib is a creative critique and does not take into account the marketing objectives behind the campaigns reviewed. 




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2nd November 2010


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