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Changing the record

Harry Armfield, joint creative director of Lane Earl Cox (LEC), overcomes his instinctive Luddite leanings to embrace 'digitalology'

A compact disc and an audio cassette resting on a recordI was looking forward, in writing this column, to having carte blanche to critique, responsibly and fairly (by which, of course, I mean 'slag off wherever possible'), our competitors' work.

But then Matthew, our new deputy MD, charged with taking the good ship LEC into the digital age, suggested that, since we are streamlining our offering in digitalology, I look at that medium instead. "Crumbs," I thought. "There couldn't be a worse critic for all things digital in the entire Western world!" I'm a vinyl man through-and-through, you see. Nothing quickens my pulse so much as a first monoaural pressing of Piper at the Gates of Dawn on the Blue Black Columbia label. I still use a VCR to tape Beverly Hills 90210, and my old Peugeot has a cassette port. However, in the course of my exhaustive research on websites of pharma-orientation, my confidence in taking on this task grew as I discovered that the creative challenges governing ads and other papery offerings in our industry apply equally to the digital world. Consequently, such sites can be a veritable Aladdin's cave of treasures (or not): by turns informative, inspiring, entertaining, ground-breaking, addictive, pedestrian, mundane, deeply disappointing, and annoying even. 

Below is my interpretation of 'www' advertising.


Viagra ( — You know what


A screenshot of the Viagra home webpage

The home page contains a short film of a middle-aged man, who – the captions tell us – is glad he has finally had 'the Viagra talk' with his doctor. Further exploration of the site reveals a video of a doctor giving all the requisite info about erectile dysfunction and Viagra (thankfully, without illustrations). My extremely truthful answers to 'rate [my] sexual health' told me that I had no signs of ED, but was there anything else affecting my sex life? If so, I could be put in touch with the nearest doctor who 'specialises in men's sexual health', for which they wanted to know my 'zip code', but that was getting a bit too personal.

ww = worth a wander


Crestor ( — High cholesterol

Nicely laid out, but very heavy on the clinical text. A link invited me to watch an illustrated video about 'arterial plaque build-up', which had okay graphics, but was a tad reminiscent of TV lavatory cleaner ads. Hidden away, but infinitely better, were patient stories, where LeRoy from Mississippi, Elise from Texas and Dick from New York discussed the difference Crestor had made to them. Beautifully shot and edited, the product message was subtly woven into the script of everyday lives. I even learned a few facts about cabbage rearing, fly fishing and ice hockey.

A screenshot of the Crestor home webpage 

www = wwwow!


Avastin ( — Various cancers

A screenshot of the Avastin home webpage

The site opens on a range of patients' portraits, each wearing a colour to represent their individual cancer. Colorectal cancer is presumably Avastin's most important indication, since that patient is wearing a smart suit in the brand's primary purple. Lung cancer is second, with a V-neck in the secondary brand blue. Clicking on each patient makes the relevant disease and drug information drop down and I found the animation I was seeking in the HCP section: 'The MOA Story' is a neat pastiche of Star Wars, with brave aerodynamic receptors attacking the evil VEGF ligand, but you have to sit through a lot to get to the action. At the end, the clinical references rolled like movie end-credits, which was probably the most creative idea in the site.

   w = weak


Diovan ( — High blood pressure

When you access the website, you are greeted with one of a selection of different patient stories. My experience kicked off with a picture of an old bloke straddling a surf board. The copy states: "I take my blood pressure medication because I didn't choose to get this, but I do choose to treat it." The caption under the photo, however, informs me that the surfer man is not an actual Diovan or Diovan HCT patient. Exploring the site in search of answers about who he really was left me no wiser, but I suppose I learned a lot about Diovan in the process, which was probably the point.

A screenshot of the Diovan home webpage 

w = weak

Lipitor ( — Heart disease

A screenshot of the Lipitor home webpage

Clearly the designers of remember the Pearl & Dean opening credits from 1970s' flicks. The homepage features an asteroid belt of information, with floating boxes about Lipitor, cholesterol and healthy living. I picked 'A Lipitor Heart-to-Heart', which was stories of patients who had had heart attacks caused by high cholesterol. Another section, 'Living Healthy', talked about diet and exercise. The mis-spelling of the adverb annoyed me, and I was reminded how the Americans are not only appropriating our drug companies, but also our language. 


ww = worth a wander

A photo of Harry ArmfieldThe Authors
Harry Armfield is the joint creative director of Lane Earl Cox (LEC)

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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1st September 2010


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