The Surgery: How often do pharma ads take your breath away?
by Mimi Nicklin (@MimiNicklin) Not often, I would guess. However, there was a group of people in Cannes last month talking about healthcare with enough passion and expertise to change that. My prediction is that it will only be another 18 months until agency pitch documents are awash with “health sold here”, instead of “we do digital”, and that suddenly a host of agency folk will be running towards pharma as the best budgets and briefs appear from a whole new set of (previously unloved) clients.
Following a few decades of bad clichés and shallow visual metaphors, healthcare work is changing fast, but the nuances of getting healthcare work right are not yet far-reaching. There are still relatively few that are perfecting it brilliantly, but those that are, are winning consumers hearts, as well as awards.
The key shift behind the specialists earning their stripes? It sits with the agencies and clients who truly understand the power of moving healthcare from product-led to patient-led. Moving the needle away from the traditional “before-and-after” benefit-led work, with long demos and complex claims, may prove to be a hard battle (believe me, I’ve been there) but the rewards are being validated on the global stage.
Take your breath away
Philips Breathless Choir is a campaign by Ogilvy & Mather London that does exactly this and after winning big in the south of France last month, it will take your breath away (pun intended) and perhaps even leave your cheeks damp. Take a look and ask yourself when last did a medical services brand do that?
Singing — that simple fusion of you, your voice and your breath — now made possible to those who never thought they would sing again, by a brand that you probably did not know even sold medical devices. Traditionally this category (the medical-devices category) would probably have turned to a product demo — possibly even an infomercial (!) — and the focus would have been upon “communicating the product benefits to those in the market for breathing apparatus”, and very few people beyond this. The thing about healthcare, though, is that we never really know when we will be ‘in the market’ for health products because, life being life, sadly we just never know when we will be impacted by disease, or pain, or an unexpected accident.
The paradox in healthcare marketing, versus FMCG marketing, is that, every day when new consumers enter the category, there is a high chance they may have never heard of a single brand, or product, in the category they are now shopping. Not a single one. This makes this a phenomenally different creative solution and unlike many solves that seasoned ad folk would have ever needed to consider before. The day these patients ‘suddenly’ become consumers, they have no brand loyalty, no brand background, no product information — hell, they may not even have come to terms with the fact that they need to shop. All of this for high-value, high-investment, long-term purchases.
It’s like marketing in a world weirdly void of brands — not because there aren’t any brands but because the consumers may have never come face-to-face with a single one.
The Breathless Choir work not only drives passion and commitment from those in the category already, but it ensures Philips a higher chance of impact with a host of consumers that, today, don’t ever think they will be shopping these products.
What makes this work truly exceptional is the subtly told tale that sells the product, and elevates the brand, to all who see it and not only to those whom are currently suffering with respiratory problems. What this work ensures is that, if a consumer ever does need to shop, Philips will be the brand they turn to. Given the likelihood that they may then (sadly) need to consume the category for decades to come, it’s a worthy investment from the brand today.
Did you know Philips sold nebulisers, ventilators and oxygen concentrators? No? Neither did I, but now, may it never be so, if I ever need any of these pieces of equipment, I will certainly turn to a brand in this category that I have, at least, heard of, and Philips it will be.
Philips Breathless Choir won two Gold Lions in the Health and Wellness category, as well as the Grand Prix in Pharma. It deserves it.
Expect healthcare marketing to be catching up creatively, as well as catching the industry’s breath, more often. To those who are getting it right, they have golden career paths ahead, and to those who still proclaim they are “too creative” to work in healthcare, just ask them to tune into Cannes Health.
Mimi Nicklin (@MimiNicklin) has spent a decade in the advertising industry working across global brands in Europe, Asia Pacific and Africa, mainly within WPP. She most recently led GlaxoSmithKline business as global VP for Grey Group, based in Singapore. She relocated back to South Africa recently as a marketing consultant and to found her own business. Her regular MarkLives column, “The Surgery”, tracks consumer healthcare communications to drive awareness and passion for this growing creative and dynamic consumer industry within Africa and beyond.