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Showroom or scrappage?

Otis Baker from Brand(x) decides which ads drive home the principles of effective advertising

Otis Baker, Brand(x) CommunicationsAt Brand(x), we define creativity as "the relevant unexpected", where relevance refers to the brand. After all, there is no point in brand advertising if it doesn't help build or support the brand. Effective advertising stimulates the target audience to think and feel in line with the brand's positioning and identity, so that the brand's behavioural objectives are met.

Unfortunately, in judging ads, we don't have all this information to hand, so we must also rely on the principles we use to produce effective advertising. These include: to win something you need to sacrifice something (ie keep it focused); being a loudmouth doesn't make you interesting (ie a whisper can be more seductive than a shout); learn to fly beneath the radar (ie by getting beneath our conscious defences, ads that are both simple and emotionally engaging are likely to be more effective), and if you want to be remembered, be consistent (ie campaigns with legs work).

Our car rating system uses four brands that have become icons for representing something in the consumers' minds, as different makes of car are often seen as standing for different levels of success.

Viagra – Erectile dysfunction

Viagra advert


What a great ad this is. First of all, the appeal to the emotions is obvious, and confidence is highly relevant to the Viagra brand isn't it? Second, have they sacrificed something? A DPS, which apart from logo and PI, features just the blue tablet and a headline. No loudmouth here, just unexpected white space. No one is squawking about paying so much for apparently so little because, fortunately, they appreciate they're getting so much.

A Ferrari  Sexy, which is why it gets a Ferrari


Pegasys – Hepatitis

In its favour, it's unexpected, and even though it's problem focused, rather than brand focused, I think it supports the efficacy of the brand. It's also simple and part of a consistent campaign. I could criticise it on the grounds of mixed metaphors, namely mouse traps and fish jaws, but I prefer to criticise it for the lack of emotional support it gives the brand. You could say it's clever and eye catching, but for me it is not doing enough. Ignore emotion at your peril.

Pegasys advert

Aspiring but not yet made it, which is why it gets a BMW


Xamiol – Scalp psoriasis

Xamiol advert

There is a grain of an idea here, albeit a rather corny one, and it does support the efficacy of the brand. Further, because she's happy, I guess you might also see some emotional reinforcement if you strain your imagination. The trouble is that it's all so familiar, with its posed patient picture illustrating exactly what the headline says. It's a great example of being relevant without being unexpected. Unfortunately, it typifies much of the advertising for pharmaceutical brands.

   A Ford Mondeo Run of the mill, which is why it gets a Mondeo


Marol – Moderate to severe pain

You could say this ad is simple and focused and, since it's part of a campaign, also 'campaignable'. There is an idea there, too (ie coins for discs, in case you missed it). I also think it's fair to say that it supports the rational side of the brand; it says it's cheap. Unfortunately, it does nothing for the emotional side, so as soon as a cheaper brand comes along, it's vulnerable. I think this one was probably lost at the briefing stage.

Marol advert

Again run of the mill, which is why it gets a Mondeo

A Ford Mondeo

Yasmin – Oral contraceptive

Yasmin advert The thing that most strikes me about this ad is that it looks just like every other pill ad. Unexpected it isn't. It's as if the people who created it couldn't get past the genre of smiling women's faces. As a result, it seems highly unlikely that it will succeed in supporting the brand by getting across its popularity or its rational benefits. A distinctive brand deserves distinctive communication. I'm afraid this is way too bland.
   The Trotters' Reliant Robin It's going nowhere, which is why it gets the Trotters' Reliant Robin

The Author
Otis Baker is head of advertising at Brand(x) Communications
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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26th November 2009


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