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The other 'C' word

You don't have to be an agency creative for long to realise that certain briefs are going to be right b******s to work on

You don't have to be an agency creative for long to realise that certain briefs are going to be right b******s to work on. Briefs that are so predictable, common and unimaginative that if they were patients, doctors would refer to them as 'heart-sink'.

Anything with 'Gold Standard' in it is one. 'Targeting' can have its moments. But possibly the one which more than most induces cardiac plummeting in even the hardiest creative spirit is 'Control'. Unsurprisingly, nowhere does this little bon mot turn up more frequently than in the area of diabetes, where seemingly every brand exists to gain, regain, improve, enhance or move towards 'control'. So it was to the diabetes journals we turned to see how our brave colleagues and their clients were getting on with this hoariest of propositions.

Do the ads that result scale the peaks, sink into the gloomiest troughs, or sort of drift along quietly, trying not to upset anyone? Our scoring system uses a straightforward peak and trough graphic: the nearer the peak, the greater control you're in; the nearer the trough the more control seems to have slipped away. Common to all is our heartfelt sympathy to everyone involved in grappling with this particular C-word.

Avandamet - for Type II diabetes

These must be nice clients to work for. They have had the courage to let the idea drive the execution. Here is a clean, striking layout which, unlike some of the others, is not just a template onto which an idea is plonked.

The man is immediately recognisable as a diabetes patient, the shot made all the more engaging because you don't see his face. He's a big fat guy, so he needs to fill the page - the layout is guided by the idea.

The only question we have is, would a man like that wear tailored, belted shorts to the beach? The headline is intriguing and encourages the reader to read on. There's hardly any body copy - one sentence to convey the essence of who the product is for and what it does is a model of economy - and there's a logo.

And that's it. Control by restraint. It takes courage. And it works.

Lantus - for diabetes
It's funny how different brand teams can generate such different ad results. With Apidra (see opposite page in a moment), the result was simple, clean, focused communication. With Lantus, it's quite the reverse and it highlights the problem of a proposition which is about 'control'.

Control, essentially, is an intangible attribute which results in people being able to live more normally than otherwise. In Lantus land, this means you can run in inappropriate trousers and a black singlet in what looks to be a Canadian winter. Without feet. Across a lake. Striding sprightly across translucent clocks with (hey!) Lantus 'L' hands.

This pyramid of absurdities is topped with a headline that reads as if it's an advertorial, the sub-head and stab points further the confusion and the net result is an ad that's working so hard to convey everything that it struggles to convey anything.

The ad seems to be controlled by the dead hand of international conformity and looks like it stems from circa 1986.

Glucophage SR - for Type II diabetes
It was just coincidence that we discussed this ad on the day a nurse was struck off the Nurses Register for drawing a face on a patient's hernia, but it lent a certain frisson to the proceedings!

Until then we'd considered it to be one of those 'neither here nor there' ads. It has a clean layout, constrained a little by corporate guidelines (the PI would feel less intrusive with more space), a huge brand name at the top, a straightforward, 'does what it says on the belly' headline and a tired old strapline about, guess what, control.

But we kept coming back to the visual. Though eyecatching, which of course is its primary function, as well as being 'just a bit of fun' it does come across as faintly disturbing and led us down the lines of 'how did they cast the belly button'?

'Is it all right to draw on a belly for an ad?' and 'Is it a real belly, or done digitally'?

Apidra - for diabetes
There's a lot to admire here. The overall idea is straightforward - show who Apidra is suitable for - but the execution lifts it out of the ordinary. The layout works to focus the eye on the messages, the typography is clean and interesting and acts to reinforce the message, the graphic brackets reiterate the body profiles in the shot and the colours match the clothing.

It all feels very crafted, very controlled. It's just a pity that the photography looks a little `plastic' - all clean and shiny and perfect, with immaculately ironed shirts (by lunchtime, most of us are more rumpled than these two) with hers looking heavily retouched.

And we would have flipped the shot to have them looking in towards the message rather than to the prescribing information - but that's a quibble. Simple, clean, focused communication.
This team is well in control.

Humalog mix 25 - for diabetes
A woman in a stripy cotton jumper holds a brand new tennis ball in a white cell. Meanwhile, in another white cell, or perhaps the same one at another time, a mad-eyed dog is photographed.

Put the two together and apparently this shows that this insulin 'works with a patient's peaks and troughs' ( do what is not specified, so we'll assume it's something to do with control). It's 'In rhythm with real people', which sounds good but also seems to rule this woman out. Then there's a word, 'Huma', sitting on its own, a huge maroon and orange stripe and the product name at the top of the ad.

Remarkably, the brain is able to make some sort of sense of all of this, but it does seem to be a case of the corporate design tail wagging the ad idea dog.

2nd September 2008


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