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Bah, humbug!

The Ghost of Christmas Past is a persistent swine, as anyone familiar with A Christmas Carol will tell you

The Ghost of Christmas Past is a persistent swine, as anyone familiar with A Christmas Carol will tell you. The ghost, as indeed does the past, has a nasty habit of revealing itself when you least expect it.

A bit like indigestion, it repeats something which, although may have appeared good at the time, leaves a lot to be desired on its second coming. A trip down memory lane is seldom as rose-tinted as you may have wished for.

Many a ghoul can be found in the Ad Libs of old copies of Pharmaceutical Marketing - some too scary to revisit. The random selection exumed here reveal the thoughts of industry creatives 10 years ago, five years ago and in the present day (the ghosts of christmas past, present and future, with a little artistic licence); they look again at some of the highs and lows of healthcare advertising in those given years.

Some chilling ads illustrate how far advertising has come, while timeless others may put current campaigns to shame; that's for you to decide.

What is revealed, however, is the impact of increasingly stringent guidelines on healthcare advertising, and in particular how much has changed since the authors of the first critique put on their dark cloaks and made known their views in 1996, the year Ad Lib was born.

Are you ready to relive the ghostly past and like Scrooge, learn the error of your ways?

Here is an ad that you just have to read. It pulls you in and then buys time to sell more.

It has particularly nice art direction. The type has been well considered and designed to reinforce the concept. It proves that sometimes stock shots can be made to work well.

Doesn't it make such a difference when an ad isn't bogged down with prescribing information (PI). Clients must be fed up with wasting around 25 per cent of their media money on PI space that detracts from the main communication. Where PI is obligatory, of course, good creative teams will do their best to make it part of the ad design.

Geoff Leavold and Orrin Pollard - PM, August 1996

The Losec campaign started off brightly with a simple, well-executed concept and a decent headline, `Everyday People'. Now it's a grotesque parody of its former self. Not only has the headline disappeared (along with the core brand value so carefully constructed), but interesting visuals have been replaced by the absurd - a ridiculous lump of tatty polystyrene.

Unfortunately, it's quite easy to imagine how this came about. No doubt the client insisted on including product features in the mistaken belief that it adds to the overall communication but, as the resulting ad shows, it distorts the whole concept.

Piotr Hennig and Neil Dickinson - PM, November 1996

This was simply love at first sight and could well lead to marriage! This series of ads is superb and wouldn't look out of place in any consumer magazine.

What can I say? All the classic elements are here: simple idea, great copywriting and stunning photography, all finished off with well positioned, stylish typography.

The relationship between client and agency is often compared to a marriage, with the recipe for long-term success relying heavily on mutual trust and respect. I suspect the client-agency relationship is working very well here. It would certainly have taken a brave decision on the client side to give this concept the green light in the first place.

With the campaign approved, it then looks like the agency has been trusted and left alone to load the final campaign with production values. The result of this partnership? An immediately attractive campaign that gets better with time.

Ben Davies - PM, August 2001

I know the use of animals in advertising is meant to have a certain appeal, but I'm afraid that this one just turns me every which way but on!

Campaigns are often guilty of taking an original idea or visual and then trying to make it work within another context, perhaps later on in the brand's advertising life - and I suspect that this is what's happening here.

Maybe I'm missing some underlying semiotic meaning, but I fail to see the message being delivered by an orangutan in a deckchair! I was going to be kind and give this ad a reasonable score just for monkeying around, but then I spotted the headline...

Ben Davies - PM, August 2001

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.

Phil Stockdale and Rupert Whitehead - PM, January 2006

2nd September 2008


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