28.5 things creatives should know before moving to Pharmaland.

And a Happy New Year to you dear reader, thanks for returning.

Recently I have had some furrow-browed chats with old creative chums from the consumer world, who have been curious as to what it’s like across the channel in Pharmaland.

Might it be a good career move?

Much of it is the same as consumer, yet so much is not (rather like that other place across the channel) So I thought I’d compile a list, which is by no means exhaustive, of some of the things that have stood out for me in the last few years. If like me, you have made the ferry crossing and not capsized, or even if you are a native of these shores, feel free to add to the list via the comments section.

In no particular order.

1. Clients are just like clients in consumer but they are usually scientists or doctors by trade so they like to play the ‘what is wrong with this ad’ game. If you’ve been trained to diagnose it’s hard to get out of the habit. The same goes for your target markets.

2. Everything is taken literally. Irony does not exist here.

3. Whatever budget you are used to in consumer, remove a zero.

4. You are not just dealing with clients, you are dealing with their medics (in-house medical advisers who make sure you can say what you say you can say) and their lawyers, who redefine the word cautious because someone somewhere might think that child in the picture means your drug makes you more fertile.(see point 2)

5. Good clients will make a calculated risk on point 4.

6. It’s not about ads anymore, you need to come up with a ‘tool’.

7. When you present to the affiliates from all the countries, who will have to agree to take your concept to use locally, there will always be someone who doesn’t agree with the strategy or creative because in their country your image is associated with dog poo.

8. If you work on a veterinary brand never anthropomorphize the animal. Vets hate it.

9. Research is often done online, not in groups. And you have to choose one execution to sum up an entire campaign.

10. Some really good photographers (the best) love working on Pharma as the visuals tend to be more interesting.

11. Most of the agencies aren’t based in the sexy west end of London, they are somewhere off the M4 or in villages scattered about Berkshire.

12. At Awards ceremonies Langland and McCann Health win everything. (Yes McCann)

13. If you are an advertising copywriter by trade this is no place for you. This is technical stuff. But there may be a bit of freelance when it’s time for ideas.

14. Most* of the medical writers worth their salt are freelance.

15. Most of the medical writers not worth their salt are also freelance. The only way to discover who is who is to use them all and wait.

16. One miss-spelt word in the legal copy can bring down an agency. Make sure you have a copy editor.

17. Sometimes a client will like your idea but get another agency to make it cheaper and badly. (Don’t ask)

18. Even though it’s been approved, coded and everyone knows it’s too late to change it. You will still have to change it.

19. Nobody cares if it’s been done before.

20. You get amazing creative briefs with potential like you have never seen in twenty years.

21. The ‘wanker quota’ per agency is considerably lower.

22. The IQ level of your fellow workers is considerably higher.

23. A few grey hairs are appreciated (or at least tolerated), and not seen as the beginning of the end.

24. Every country has different regulations, the UK is one of the strictest, but does some of the best work. Brazil don’t seem to have any.

25. A single page ad is actually a third of a page due to PI (prescribing information) taking up most of the page.

26. Nobody reads the PI.

27. Nobody (bar the target market) will ever see any of your work.

28. Remember, you know nothing about this sector of advertising even though you know heaps about advertising.

28.5. The food is much worse here. (see No.11)


* probably more accurate to say ‘some’, obviously there are great writers in full time positions. Not least here at CDM!

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