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Smell the coffee

Creating an ad that will build a brand by winning hearts and minds isn't easy. Is it time we drank a bit more coffee, thought a bit longer and tried a bit harder?

Pharmaceuticals have two identities: the brand and the generic. Similarly, it struck us that pharmaceutical advertising also comes in the same two forms. Generic advertising is easy. The metaphors are ready and waiting, and the language is well developed. It really doesn't take that much effort to bring it all together and construct an ad that researches well. While everyone gets to go home at 5.30pm, have we really created something that engages our audience?

Creating an ad that will build a brand by winning hearts and minds isn't easy. For a start, you have to come up with an idea. Then, you have to invest a lot of time and effort in seeing your idea through. Perhaps this is the problem, there is a tendency to give up too easily.

Maybe we're too comfortable comping together stock images instead of actually shooting visual ideas of our own. Maybe we are guilty of using bland, expected language rather than opting to sit down and think of something more intelligent and engaging. Is it time we drank a bit more coffee, thought a bit longer and tried a bit harder?

Protium - for gastric ulcers

This ad certainly makes you stop, which is the first step, and you can see how it could roll out as a campaign. But, as with so many pharma ads, it's lost steam along the way. There's just something not quite right with the execution. Instead of looking tamed, the gorilla actually looks quite aggressive; he might have been better off playing darts or on the pub quiz team.

The 'speeding bullet' tablet along the bottom is just unnecessary pharma clutter. The copy also lets it down. What is the purpose of the full point in the headline? The strapline is just another piece of generic pharma speak. These things aside, we're looking forward to seeing the next in the series. A grizzly bear at a school picnic?

Olmetec - for hypertension

Advertising an anti-hypertensive is tricky. The condition is something you can't feel or see; the medication has an effect you can't see or feel. It's a market where lots of advertising says the same thing and rational reasons to prescribe are tough to substantiate. As a result, the advertiser must rely more heavily on emotional reasons and strong brand building is essential.

This campaign tries very hard to achieve this, but in our opinions it just misses the mark. The copy is fun but it's hard to warm to the stock characters that have been chosen. It is more generic than brand.

Glucophage - for Type II diabetes

We really like the thought of a talking belly button. There's definitely an idea here, but it's lost in the disappointing execution.

The headline, 'At last!' is such a generic pharmaceutical phrase and the visual could work harder. It's a shame, because there's so much potential here.

A quirky style of photography or a funky illustration would have brought the idea to life and given the brand a personality. More coffee was definitely needed to see it through.


Nexium - for erosive reflux oesophagitis

If we described this ad, the beach, the horizon, the sunset and the thoughtful, dog-walking patient, would you be able to name the brand? With generic images like these, it could be anything.

The idea of 'seeing the back of GORD' probably tested brilliantly. Full marks for ticking all the boxes. Yet, it is an ad that does well in market research necessarily capable of winning hearts and minds in the real world? Probably not. Put the kettle on.

Fybogel - for constipation

This ad is simplicity itself. Simple idea. Simple illustration. Simple words. It isn't cluttered with product messages and giant logos and it hasn't had a lot of money spent on it.

It isn't advertising a new, cutting edge product, but it brings a smile to your face and gives the brand a certain attitude and spirit to make you reconsider an old, unexciting product.

An ad for a human health product with a human feel to it makes a refreshing change. It must have been double espressos all round.

The Authors
Yvette Cumbers and Sam Holbrook, the creative team at Woolley Pau

2nd September 2008


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