Please login to the form below

Not currently logged in

Bitter sweet

Kelly Underwood-Fone, co-founder and director of Lime Advertising, looks at how too much client interference can sour good creative concepts

Dark chocolate cakeWe all know the age-old cliché: clients get the advertising they deserve. On the agency side, we have all felt this to be true, especially when, after presenting creative to our clients, they take out their red biro and make a great concept mediocre.

In a list of the critical steps that a marketer must follow to have any hope of creating ground-breaking advertising, the consumer advertising guru Marvin O Davis wrote: "Respect the opinion of your agency [...] when your agency has a strong point of view, listen to it. You both want to make great advertising, and some of the best campaigns result from the agency 'winning the argument.' Should you always yield to your agency? No, because sometimes it is wrong and it would also mean the marketer is not doing his or her job. But if the marketer always dismisses the agency, that client will soon have an uninspired advertising team."

On the other hand, there are also times when the creatives must sell the concept internally and make sure the client understands why it deserves to win the argument.
With this in mind, I have assessed the following ads and given each one a red-pen rating: one for the most deserving client through to four for the most over zealous.


NICORETTE COMBI — Smoking cessation


Nicorette advertisement

You can almost hear a medical director's objection to this ad: "What do our patch and gum have to do with reproduction?" But what I like about this ad is that it made me laugh; it over-dramatises what the product actually does and makes something quite dull seem exciting. The message is simple and single minded. I applaud the marketer who sold this internally and the agency that suggested it to the client in the first place.

Red pen rating

 Conceived without interference



If I were working at the agency that produced this ad, I would be really proud of the copy 'For lungfuls of life'. It is a great proposition for creatives to work with and the image is an interesting way of showing a patient going about normal activities, but I feel there may have been too much intervention on the copy front. Maybe someone asked for a stronger call to action in the headline and that all the key messages be shoehorned in. This has had a detrimental effect on the art direction. Leaving the headline alone would have made for a stronger ad.

Fistair advertisement 

Red pen ratingRed pen ratingRed pen rating

Has lack of confidence written all over it


STAMARIL— Yellow fever

Stamaril advertisement

This ad is really quirky and engaging. The illustrative style reminds me of Virgin's in-flight safety video, which has to be a good thing. What I like about it is its single-mindedness in telling us to trust Stamaril because it's been around for ages. The ad itself hasn't been cluttered with extraneous information, such as safety data or the numbers of patients that have received the vaccine. The art direction is excellent — even the fact that there are three logos to negotiate doesn't affect the flow of the ad.


Red pen rating

Immune from interference


BALNEUM PLUS — Atopic eczema

When I initially saw this ad my first thought was: "Why haven't pharma companies stopped using animals in their ads?" But on closer inspection I wondered if this ad needs to say or do any more than it already does. The visual gets across the feeling of an annoying itch and the ad isn't over complicated by unnecessary copy. In this instance it feels like the client trusted their agency enough to run with a simple concept. While the ad isn't groundbreaking and the agency might have pushed the client more, it could have turned out so much worse.

Balneum Plus advertisement 

Red pen ratingRed pen rating

The agency could have stratched below the surface


Tetralysal advertisement

Where do you look first in this ad? There is so much going on. The headline: 'Because they rarely have an empty stomach' is good — it shows a key patient insight as well as lets you know the brand's benefit — but all the other copy could go. Why say "we keep it simple", when it would be stronger just to show it by creating a simple ad? In this case, I would actually be the one getting out my red pen: the body copy just repeats what is already elsewhere in the ad and that awful clip art burger meal adds nothing but clutter to the page. I presume that the art direction is following some tortuous branding guidelines; why else would you overcomplicate an ad that could be so simple?


Red pen ratingRed pen ratingRed pen ratingRed pen rating

Did the client help to make a real meal of this one?

Photo of Kelly Underwood-FoneThe Authors
Kelly Underwood-Fone
 is the co-founder and director of Lime Advertising

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. 




Related Links

Take a look at a range of adverts from multiple agencies in The Gallery
Use Find-a-Service to find the agency that meets your needs

30th September 2010


Subscribe to our email news alerts

Featured jobs


Add my company
Redbow Consulting Group

Redbow Consulting Group is a specialist healthcare management consultancy specialising in business strategy and marketing...

Latest intelligence

Infographic: Therapy Watch Hyperlipidaemia
Our latest infographic offers an introduction to the real-world insights collected by our Hyperlipidaemia study....
Article: The rise of the healthcare influencer
In our latest article for Pharmaphorum Deep Dive, we explore the opportunities and benefits for healthcare companies in the online influencer space....
Top-10 Reasons Why You Should be Adding Asynchronous Virtual Touchpoints Between Your Real-time Meetings