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A True work of art

Heading towards the PM Society Awards, what better time of year than this to review the latest crop of pharma ads?

What better time of year than this to review the latest crop of pharma ads? Heading towards the PM Society Awards where plaudits are handed out left, right and centre along with several thousand of the UK's most expensive gin and tonics, it's time to substitute the Big Hangover with the Big Idea.

Although we represent the two different disciplines of the ad agency world (account handling and creative), we both have one mantra - that engaging, effective communication stems from a single-minded delivery of a great idea. It is on this basis that we have reviewed these ads.

When it came to inspiration for the rating scale, we looked no further than out of the office window. Based in Borough, a five-minute walk in either direction and you're mixing apples and pears in Borough Market or musing over the latest Whiteread sculptural installation at the
Tate Modern.

These paragons of postmodernism and the culinary revolution have given us a topical accolade or admonishment for each reviewed ad: where there is a sound idea behind the execution nothing less than a Turner Prize is merited. However, when we are left searching for something more than a stock headline and image the Turnip Prize is wheeled out.

Hold on to your organic plaited Tuscan ciabatta and admission ticket, the exhibition is opening.

Click on images for a larger view

Cipralex - for depression

As we all know, a simple idea works best and this definitely does. We warmed to this straight away for its refreshingly surreal illustrative style and ballsy clarity of message. Simply neck a tab of Cipralex and you can suck up that black cloud of depression with a giant Hoover the size of a Ford Ka. Marvellous!

You can imagine how our hearts sank when we discovered in the sub-head that the suction of a Cipralex Hoover might vary, unless the bag is changed regularly, as part of a global treatment, and that in doing so we may be better equipped to deal with depression.

Hmm... not exactly a Dyson then is it? But we still like it and the important thing is that despite the obvious restrictions placed on the creative team, they have still managed to produce an impactful ad that sucked us in, and didn't just suck.

Testim gel - for male hypogonadism

Kite flying! Did this idea happen to come from the logo because it looks a bit like a kite? We admit we don't know a lot about hypogonadism but surely one of the main benefits is the fact that Testim is a gel? So why does the ad keep this important fact hidden away in the copy - oh yes, and in the kite flying logo?

Maybe we're different to other married men but the thought that one would go and fly a kite, while one's wife stood around watching and pretending to be interested, is beyond us. If there ever was an idea it must have fluttered down in the creative doldrums.

Definitely a whiff of over-boiled swede here...

Balneum - for itch relief

WellÖ if she could do that with both legs I'd marry her!

This is a great campaign, with a solid idea behind it - humans scratching like animals. It's showing the negative, but in a way that's both engaging and humorous. The shot is beautiful, the art direction is sympathetic and the retouching (if there is any) is seamless.

We've looked at it long and hard and we're wondering if she's doing that for real, aided only by the lucky photographer's assistant who's holding her ankle and pretending to be gay.

Our niggles, if any, are that the body copy's a bit dull and the pack shot is a bit big. But beyond that it's a top effort and we'll be itching to see the next one.

Turner material.

Cialis - for erectile dysfunction

There's been a real shift here creatively and for the better. Gone are the boring landscape shots straight from the photo library that no doubt researched particularly well because no one was offended.

Here is an ad that is not only offering the patient the opportunity for a quicky in the woods when they want to, but also empowers the doctor to feel good because they wrote the scrip. We are not entirely convinced about the location, but at least the campaign's starting to go somewhere now.

Just scrapes a Turner...

Servier Cardiovascular - corporate ad

The `we have a new product coming and want to tell you about it but we can't ad'. Always an interesting one; either surplus budget needs to be spent to balance year-end figures, or more likely that a pre-launch ad is seen to be a sound investment to build up anti-cipation and interest in their soon-to-be-launched brand. A laudable strategy but only if the ad actually engenders anticipation or interest - the likelihood of this ad generating either of those is unlikely.

Now there is nothing wrong with a copy ad, providing there is some sort of idea driving it but a (globally driven?) shortcut has been taken here, with a stock headline followed by turgid body copy that uses the word `angle' no less than four times. Fair enough, there was probably limited meat for the creatives to bite on with a `corporate' brief but does that excuse the lacklustre, unimaginative and flat result?

A prize Turnip.

Xenical - for weight loss

This brand has seen numerous ad campaigns since it was launched back in the late 1990s; some good, some mediocre. This latest campaign clearly has a big `fat' idea behind it.

We all know the fatal consequences of obesity, as is reported regularly in the medical and lay media, and this theme is taken up with a clever link to the USP of the brand. Xenical blocks fat absorption (which is different to the competition), and the proposition is articulated clearly and compellingly: if you don't block the fat, you'll have a dead patient.

The unfussy layout and the headline and strapline work well together to deliver the message. Our only gripe being that the subtlety of the fatty skull and cross-bones was missed by several people we showed the ad to until it was pointed out.

One Turner Prize to take away please!

2nd September 2008


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