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Creative harmony

Creative director of Grey Healthcare Group, Patrick Norrie, assesses the karma of some recent healthcare ads

The Chinese yin yang symbol of harmonyAs I advance in years with ever-increasing abandon, things I would previously dismiss with a celtic shrug-huff now command more of my attention... apart from jazz music, of course. Accordingly, I've been analysing my dreams in a lot more depth than is probably healthy.

Did you know that in this day and age there's still no credible answer on the hows and whys of our dreams? Lots of opinions, sure, just no agreed definition. So I've invented my own.

Dream (dr:im) n. 1. The mind's way of making sense of the day's events, confirming our beliefs in what is good and bad, and steeling us for the tribulations of the coming day. Often karma-driven: good day + virtuous deeds = sweet dreams; lazy day + a hint of devilment = greater chance of nightmares.

The same could loosely be applied to advertising: effort + inspiration + teamwork + insight = greater chance of a cracking idea. Conversely, a whole lot of 'Me! Me! Me!' + minimal effort + perspiration + silo-working + suppositions = frequent mediocrity.

So let's pick through some recent offerings and see who the gods of karma are smiling upon and who needs to learn to play together a little more nicely.


LAXIDO ORANGE — chronic constipation

Laxido advertisement

I'll be honest, this made me laugh by instantly appealing to the boy-in-me-who-will-never-grow-up. I'm assuming that agency and client were both comfortable with the force-10 pun and visual humour: note the loo roll flowing victoriously from the lofty bog brush. Flogging generics always affords the chance to play a little faster and a little looser. So why not? Ask yourself how interesting this ad would be if it relied solely on a cost message? Clue: not very. Is this a great ad? No. Does it stand out? Yes. The colours and subject matter give it a fighting chance. Did it lighten my morning? Undoubtedly. But perhaps not in the way it was intended.


Earns plaudits for irreverence.


VANIQA — female facial hirsutism

Creative people frequently bemoan a lack of craft in our industry, usually with good reason. So it was refreshing to see an idea that stopped me visually and wasn't overly fussy. This ad is for a facial hirsutism product for women. While the copy doesn't set my heather on fire (although I admire its straight-talking tone), setting the type as facial hair on the model makes her face take on a whole new set of characteristics. I found it captivating. Naturally, the type makes her look more masculine. Cover it up with your hands and her femininity is instantly restored. And therein lies the insight. These women want their femininity returned to them. Well done to the agency for resisting the usual portrait retouches – the natural look preserves the authenticity of the idea. Occasionally, a lack of finessing can be the best craft of all.

Vaniqa advertisement 

Strong, thought provoking. Excellent team effort.


CRESTOR — primary hypercholesterolaemia and mixed dyslipidaemia

Crestor advertisement

The more I look at this Crestor ad the more I find to like about it. The concept is immediate and the delicate background colour adds tranquillity. Does it stop me in my tracks? Yes. Does it stand out against the other ads in the same publication? Without a doubt. Is it well designed? You bet – the prescribing information (PI) is prominently positioned yet barely noticeable. The only thing I would add is a call to action (however discreet). When you ask a question in an ad, there are two things to note. Firstly, it gives your readers an easy option to say "no". Secondly, you're initiating a conversation. "Finding cholesterol targets hard to hit?" "Yes"... So... Even a small URL or search instruction would allow the conversation to continue.


Lovely design, clear idea. Good karma to all involved.


TOVIAZ — overactive bladder

I've never really perceived of a treatment choice for overactive bladders as a reason to race up to the attic and dig out the bunting. Healthcare ads often portray a new product as a reason to celebrate. Sometimes it's appropriate. But often it's to conceal the lack of a killer insight. I'd have drilled a lot deeper into the product benefits or patient insights to unearth the core of the idea. Examine the bullet points and you'll find some starters for 10. In this instance the catch-all headline seems a little detached and obvious. I can understand the image of people doing the conga, but I'm sure there's something more insightful out there.

 Toviaz advertisement

Look deeper to discover your insight.


AVAMYS — intranasal steroid

Avamys advertisement

I can never decide whose music I prefer more — The Stones' or The Beatles' (controversially, I think The Smiths were more musically significant than the pair of them put together). But I digress. The slightly surreal tone of this ad reminds me a little of Yellow Submarine. That's a good thing, as I find the visual curious and alluring but without honestly being able to say why. Personally, I would lose some of the butterflied product images as they become slightly lost in the overall image anyway. The copy is clear and, in this case, the powerful image permits the use of a high-level headline. It's charmed me and given my ageing grey matter something else to ponder. I think I'll give this one the overnight test...


 I've closed my eyes and I'm just waiting for a voice to tell me whether I like it or not. I think I do.


Patrick Norrie 

The Authors
Patrick Norrie is creative director of Grey Healthcare Group

To comment on this article, email

Ad Lib is a creative critique of healthcare ads and does not take into account the marketing objectives behind the campaigns reviewed.


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28th June 2010


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