Concept Diagnosis

Taking the pulse of the worst & best in healthcare advertising

Tag: pharma

Beware of Paper Tigers – Their Cut is Worse Than Their Bite

In the world of healthcare advertising, if you can think it, it’s probably already been done. Make sure to do your homework because even the most uncommon ideas, like say…origami animals, have been unfolding in pharma for years, becoming yet another cliché.

AMITIZA1AMITIZA2AMITIZA (lubiprostone) is a treatment for chronic idiopathic constipation. It increases fluid secretion in the intestines, which increases intestinal movement, which helps make it easier to have bowel movements. This MOA seems to be represented in their logo, a tight blockade of rectangles that start to dissipate and turn into flying birds. If there is one brand in pharma that has the rational excuse to use origami in their marketing, it would probably be AMITIZA. Those rectangles become paper transforming into origami birds, which is exactly what we find in a 2007 ad. Here, the AMITIZA bird is made of green branded paper singing branded paper musical notes. In the AMITIZA convention booth, the origami icon comes to life above its audience.

SeroquelThis 2012 ad for SEROQUEL (quetiapine) from Australia bears a strong resemblance to the AMITIZA birds, this time with flying origami crane. Yes five years have passed, yes it’s on a continent on the other side of the world, yes it’s in a different therapeutic category, but why would you still use an icon that is strongly tied to another global pharmaceutical brand? Maybe they should have created origami jailbirds because it’s a crime!

Picture 44A 2010 ad for SANDOSTATIN (octreotide) and a Portuguese ad for PEGASYS (peginterferon alfa-2a) are almost identical. Both use printed clinical data to create their origami animals, a rhino for SANDOSTATIN and the iconic Pegasus for PEGASYS. The PEGASYS headline reads “Clinical studies and a lot of research transformed into life.”origami_pegasys_42x30_02_o_905 The big question is, which one would win in a fight, the rhino or the mythical Pegasus?

ZPAKThe brand that did it first and probably the best using paper sculptures, was ZITHROMAX (azithromycin) promoting the Z-Pak in 2002. Not only did it emphasize its excellent efficacy using animal predators, but created them using the purple Z-Pak packaging. The Z-Pak was a unique marriage of dosing regimen and marketing. Even today, patients still request Z-Paks from their physicians. Hopefully no fingers were harmed or cut creating these ads.

It’s a constant battle of creative wits to be original, not only when you’re competing internally with other creative teams for the big idea, but competing with creative healthcare history….just be careful you’re not repeating it.

Lions and Tigers and Metaphors, OH MY!

The most used metaphors in the history of pharmaceutical advertising come from the animal kingdom, and probably none more so than the members of the genus Panthera: the tiger and the lion.

What’s not to love about these feline icons? They’ve been featured prominently in ancient mythology and folklore for thousands of years. They appear globally on many flags, coats of arms and as mascots of sports teams (especially if you live in Detroit). They are majestic animals and powerful, fierce hunters. You can find “a tiger in your tank” (Exxon), in your bowl of cereal (Frosted Flakes) or roaming the sales materials of representatives in doctors’ offices. Here are just five examples.

Tygacil2007TYGACIL (tigecycline), a broad-spectrum hospital anti-infective from Wyeth, was approved in 2005. The launch ad depicts TYGACIL as a tiger, “A POWERFUL NEW PARTNER”, walking alongside a doctor through a hospital corridor. Obviously the doctor now has a manageable, yet fierce, antibiotic to fight resistant pathogens. While I don’t condone the use of endangered species in pharma ads, I could see the lure of reinforcing TYGACIL’s name recognition with a tiger at launch.

ValcyteVALCYTE (valganciclovir) is prescribed for the prevention of cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease in high-risk adult and pediatric transplant patients. In this multi-page ad, one of the indicated pediatric patients is depicted as a tiger cub, helpless and possibly within the sights of a predator. “WHEN THE RISK IS HIGH”, you need “THE POWER TO PROTECT”. We get it, VALCYTE is now the tiger because there is no fiercer animal than a tiger or lion momma protecting her young…’nuff said! But it’s still just a stock shot of tigers as I’m waiting for Marlin Perkins (google him, kiddies) or Jeff Corwin to narrate this documentary.

In the pharma world, 2009 must have been the Year of the Lion because we were introduced to two lion campaigns (not be confused with Cannes Lions).Combigan

Allergan’s COMBIGAN (brimonidine/timolol) treats pressure in the eye caused by glaucoma. The brand is depicted in their ad as a lion comfortably sitting on a couch (probably watching Born Free…google that too, kids!) next to a patient reading the Global Times. “POWER YOU CAN BE COMFORTABLE WITH”, until you get mauled to death in the comfort of your own living room or by a tiger in the hospital cafeteria.

Nucynta10.2009The creative brief for painkiller NUCYNTA (tapentadol) probably had two words leaping off the page for the creative teams: gentle strength. That would explain why we see a Casanova King of the Jungle with a rose in his mouth ready to lure you into a lascivious tango or to be his dinner.Humira2012

Abbott, makers of HUMIRA (adalimumab) turned the tables in 2012 and made these animals a vicious threat as we see a leopard coming out of the darkness eyeing us like a gazelle with gout. No headlines are necessary here because in healthcare advertising no one can hear you scream (unless you see an ad using red boxing gloves, but that’s a topic for another article). Turn the page and you can hear HUMIRA shouting, “Honey, I Shrunk the Cats!” as a tiger, a lion and the leopard now conveniently fit in your palm but still large enough to gnaw the fingers from your hand.

Those were just a few examples, but there are many more. We haven’t had any lion sightings in a while, but those big cats are lurking out there, waiting to be used as an icon for your next client. Fight the urge and make these metaphors extinct.

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