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Advertising pains

Lachlan James, digital strategy director at BD Network, tells us where healthcare ads hurt

A man clasping his stomachThe ads I have selected to review illustrate how pharma brands are embracing the full marketing spectrum. Crucially, they also highlight where there is still room for improvement.

Some of the adverts I review here include digital elements, designed to engage customers and help drive brand advocacy as well as product recognition – something I believe more of the pharmaceutical industry should be doing. In particular in my reviews, I illustrate the importance of harnessing social media to drive interaction with customers and increase campaign effectiveness.

In keeping with the brands I reviewed, I rated the adverts on a scale of painfulness, from painful through ailing to addictive, to reflect how well they have combined the various elements, including digital channels and the visuals.


IMODIUM — Diarrhoea Dialogue

Diarrhoea Dialogue Advert

This advert approaches a sensitive subject with the standard positive, colourful spin. Although I am not entirely sure what the two figures represent, the core idea behind the ad offers a safe and trusted way to discuss the condition with other sufferers and experts.

This is what digital channels can offer the healthcare industry so brilliantly – a truly enriching patient experience. What confuses me here is the journey. On going to the specific URL on the ad there is no mention of the Diarrhoea Dialogue.

This kills it for me – if you are investing in an idea and a campaign designed to sell support to sufferers, don't deny them the part that is actually of use to them. Nice ad, though.

Painful: 1/5


PANADOL — Panadol Podcast

GSK has come up with a nice idea, trying to give pharmacists the tools and peace of mind to ensure they are offering the best pain relief advice. However, the ad could have been easier to read. I am impressed by its forward thinking, but wonder about the penetration of podcast use among the pharmacists  and whether there's a better route to take.

Digital needs to be made easy, but here the pharmacist needs to call or email to find out how to access the podcast. I'm sure this would have fulfilled the requirement of data capture, but at what cost? The other, bigger, opportunity here is longevity.

GSK could go beyond painkillers to make the podcast about helping pharmacists to run their business better, creating a platform of ongoing dialogue and enabling GSK to promote products across its entire range.

Panadol Advert

Ailing: 2.5/5


NICORETTE — Nicorette Inhaler

Nicorette Advert

I really like this – it's simple and to the point. It clearly tells you what its main product benefits are and how it differentiates in the cluttered and competitive world of Nicotine Replacement Treatment.

In a market where product failings have less to do with the quality of product and more to do with the quality of commitment, this addresses the need for products to be targeted to individual needs and requirements for best results. It's also a nice shout out to the old world rustic masculinity of cigarette advertising in an attempt to try to reduce the stigma of using inhalers.

Whether it works or not is yet to be seen; however, something tells me you wouldn't see the Marlboro men using one — that is, if any of them were still alive. Therein lies the point.


Addictive: 4/5


NUROFEN — Nurofen Plus

This is a nice clear visual and use of the product. However, I find the content and messaging somewhat distracting. If you manage to look beyond the fact that there seems to be a huge number of asterisks, superscript and a serious amount of real estate given to the T&Cs (which alone would put most insurance policies to shame), you will notice (if you choose to dig that deep) that the claims made speak of a consumer survey of questionable merit.

Most importantly, in the end I'm none the wiser as to why Nurofen is the better pain reliever in a very cluttered category.

Nurofen Advert

Ailing: 2/5

WINTHROP — Fexofenadine Hydrochloride

Winthrop Advert

This is an old-school print, with a good visual of the product. All the relevant information is well presented, albeit on a clashing nuclear green backdrop. The only thing for me is that it has no call to action or next step. In that sense, it really does: 'Economise with No Compromise'. I think brands should be smarter than this: yes, sometimes simple advertising is necessary but simple doesn't mean just a print ad.

Healthcare all too often falls into the trap of thinking that it needs to be simple and serious at the cost of being innovative and engaging. Healthcare advertising needs to be treated in the same way as consumer brands as there is no real difference in the audience or their expectations of how information should be communicated to them. Doctors and pharmacists are savvy consumers too, and they spend just as much time on Facebook, YouTube and online and expect these channels to bring the brands they interact with to life – at work or play.


More addictive than ailing: 3/5



Lachlan JamesThe Author
Lachlan James, digital strategy director at BD Network, tells us where healthcare ads hurt.

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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7th February 2011


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