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Easter treats

Mark Duckham of TNS Healthcare UK gives a researcher's perspective on which agencies deserve the gifts of the season

Mark Duckham is managing director of TNS Healthcare UKEaster is upon us, but do our creative agencies deserve the traditional gifts of the season? I am mindful of two long-running debates in advertising history – the effectiveness of advertising to influence sales, and the effectiveness of market research to measure or enhance that influence.

When I was an ad man, the inability to measure advertising effectiveness was both frustrating and liberating. The present disillusionment with traditional paid-for advertising vehicles, however, makes this handicap more serious. As a researcher, it is not surprising that "scientific" research is increasingly employed, rather than using more "emotional" gut instinct or expecting "creatives" to always understand their target audience. Why should we assume that a doctor or housewife will "take out" what we wish from an ad created by a young person fresh out of art or ad college?

To that end, I assess these ads from the point of view of an overworked GP or nurse in the local health centre.

Avamys - for allergic rhinitis

Avamys – for allergic rhinitis
There's a lot of snobbery in the advertising world and sometimes good, hardworking ads are dismissed because they're seen to be over contrived. Some would therefore turn their noses up (excuse the pun) here and cringe at the butterfly packs and the eye leaves. However, the ad did get my attention the first time I saw it and I suspect it would do the trick for GPs too. A colourful and slightly intriguing visual is accompanied by a headline promising relief for patients (and something new for the doctor too). It probably won't win any awards, but it has enough to get attention, be relevant and hopefully pave the way for a rep visit. Most GPs, I vouch, would think it "clever" use of imagery. Therefore, however complex or otherwise the pathway is to their brain, there is likely to be a positive memory lodged there which will assert itself at some point to the benefit of the brand.
Easter eggEaster egg Worth a couple of Easter eggs.


Micardis - for hypertension

Not sure about this. To be fair, "water" visuals are known to attract, but there are so many of them that even the yachting fraternity must be getting bored. I am also very concerned about the safety of our lone middle-aged oarsman in a very choppy sea – hypertension is probably the least of his worries. The visual sits somewhat awkwardly in a crystal ball – thus making sense of the headline. Presumably the emotional appeal of the ad is to the doctor's instinct to protect his patients, with the rational underpinning being 24-hour power. I sympathise with all involved because differentiating in such a crowded market is not easy and it's not sexy medicine for practitioners either. This is the sort of ad about which people say "that'll do well in research" in a very pejorative way. Would it catch the attention of a practitioner and transport him away from his sea of troubles? I doubt it.
Micardis – for hypertension

Given the water imagery, I think a plastic duck is appropriate.

Rubber duck

Migard - for migraine

Migard – for migraine I confess to being a migraine sufferer. Mine often recurs the next day and something that prevents this would be useful. Whether this ad conveys that benefit is open to question, and the visual, while admittedly striking, doesn't really elucidate. Why is this horned monster in the sea (water imagery seems ubiquitous), feet encased by concrete and providing amusement for the fish? Is he the victim of a mafia hit? He also looks distinctly pregnant – is this relevant? I'm probably being too critical and doctors won't be looking so closely at the visual, but I suspect a different visual could either complement or clarify the headline better.

Research probably says that the triptan market is all about efficacy so we have the rather tame and workmanlike "long-lasting efficacy" tagline. Shame nobody could think of something a bit more differentiating and relevant to this brand.
Easter egg We know chocolate can sometimes cause headaches, so I think only one Easter egg.


NHS - smoking cessation

I have to express a personal interest here. I, along with a creative director who shall remain nameless, started my career advertising cigarettes. These days, smoking seems to be on the borderline of social acceptability. Therefore the power of context is huge here – boring cigarette pack on boring surface, but unmissable by a GP in a GP journal.

The ad touches nicely on a doctor's (sometimes suppressed) desire to be a good doctor. "Silence kills" prods at his guilt and "30 seconds" plays to his vanity, as a busy medic, and tries to stop him turning the page. Good, simple copy tells him what to do and reinforces the patient benefit.

The ad proves that simplicity and good, straightforward copy can sometimes triumph over elaboration and overblown language.
 NHS – smoking cessation

If it helps to put somebody off the fags, it's worth the top award of an Easter bunny.

Easter bunny

Xamiol - scalp psoriasis

Xamiol – scalp psoriasis The girls in the office like this one, and the ladies in the surgery probably do too. I'm not normally a fan of the "smiling patient" ad and some may see this as a bit cheesy. However, given that this is an unpleasant but not life-threatening condition, we don't need to judge by oncology standards.

The headline is a pun that works and from the client and brand recall point of view it also includes the brand name. They even managed to get a lozenge in the picture, stating both the indication and that it's new. The copy won't win any poetry awards but, all in all, it's a good, effective ad which probably reminds the GP that even in minor ailments cases, he can make a difference.
Easter bunny Hats off to them: Easter bunny.

The Author

Mark Duckham is managing director of TNS Healthcare UK
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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21st April 2009


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