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The catch is...

Brett O'Connor tells us which visual narratives caught his attention

Brett O'Connor is creative director at VCCP Health I am a very lucky man, because I get to do two of my favourite things (coming up with ideas and fly-fishing) on a weekly basis.

As an art director by trade, I love seeing visual solutions – something we at VCCP Health like to call the 'visual narrative'. Visual narrative has become critical in today's market, where more and more companies require European or global solutions. When the visual provides a large part of the communication, we don't get caught up in translations and word play.

As a fly-fisherman too, my scoring system uses the analogy of a trout for the client and a fly for the piece of communication. Not that I'm calling any of my previous clients trout! It is just that if you present a fly to a fish and it refuses it, you'll try another and another until it bites. Of course, I'd like to think that when I present my pieces of communication to clients they will like it, but if not, I will continue to present ideas until they do.

The following set of advertisements are all health-related visual narratives from consumer and Rx brands across the world. My scoring is based on how many fish each ad would catch, or not, as the case may be.

British Heart Foundation - Patient awareness

BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION - Patient awareness This is a classic example of a visual narrative. The communication relies on an arresting image that perfectly illustrates what can happen during a heart attack. Clean art direction with expertly crafted retouching shows the image of a belt tightening around the patient's chest. The strapline of 'doubt kills' is short, concise and to the point. Why take chances with an issue as serious as a possible heart attack?

Fish supper. Two for tea.


AIDES - Patient awareness

AIDES is the leading French Aids fighting association. Picture the scenario: you are flicking through your morning magazine drinking a cappuccino, eating your croissant and 'wham' you're hit by this ad. Don't tell me it's not going to get your attention. The headline reads (excuse my French), "Without condoms, it's to Aids you're making love. Protect yourself".

The early morning sunshine blazes through the linen curtains. It would have been very easy to have shot these executions in the dark of night, trying to add to the foreboding dangers of Aids, but I'm glad they didn't. That would have been predictable. The fact of the matter is if you're not protected, you have to be prepared for the consequences. It's a fresh approach to fighting Aids and I love it. Why have unprotected sex with someone who could kill you? Enough said.

AIDES - Patient awareness

Invite your friends around for dinner, the fish are chowing down on this one.


Versatis - Post-herpetic neuralgia

VERSATIS - Post-herpetic neuralgia Not only is this poor lady suffering from back pain, it's back pain that resembles fire, spikes and lightning all in one place. How many visual metaphors could you possibly cram into one image? Not only that, but the poor girl has been partially painted blue too (perhaps they ran out of paint?) Then we have a demo shot of how to apply a plaster. I guess this would be a client request? Showing images of fire and lightning over an area of pain has been explored before, as has painting images on to the skin. This ad is typical of much current healthcare advertising and makes me a little sad. I guess this poor woman is sad too, which is why she's giving herself a hug, 'gawd' bless her.

The fish live to eat another day!


Jin Si Ping - Parkinson's disease

While attending last year's Rx Awards in NYC, I came across a campaign from Shanghai for Parkinson's disease. You always know a good campaign when, after spending hours comparing award winning work, one campaign in particular stands out. It's a very simple concept that gives you an insight into what it's like to live with Parkinson's disease. Sometimes it's easier to take campaigns to the extreme than it is to present a more controlled approach. What I like about this ad and the campaign is that it's the everyday things we take for granted that are affected. Not being able to eat your breakfast, write a note or even brush your teeth are difficult things to accept. The headline reads, "Stopping tremor, Jin Si Ping beats Parkinson's disease effectively". I feel as though the line could've worked a little harder, but then again, that could just be a case of 'lost in translation'.

JIN SI PING - Parkinson's diease

Meal for one. The visual creates enough intrigue for those little fishes to have a nibble.


Lodine SR - Pain and inflammation

LODINE SR - Pain and inflammation In the world of visual narratives, there are good and bad examples. Then we have work that drifts into the area of visual puns. Enter the mad, mad land of Lodine SR. The headline reads, "Lodine SR is her kind of NSAID" followed by, "COX-2 selectivity with years of experience". I'm trying to imagine the creative presentation... "Smiling patients are good and part of the headline says COX-2 so why don't we have a smiling old lady holding a cock in each hand?" No wonder the old dear looks so happy. I'm sorry, but there are some ads you just can't even try to improve. I wouldn't know where to start – a blank piece of paper perhaps? I suggest no smiling patients and definitely no cockerels.

The fish have well and truly scarpered, frightened off by the crazy lady and her beloved cocks

The Author

Brett O'Connor is creative director at VCCP Health
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.

Related Links

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8th April 2009


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