The show jumping car.

I admit it, I have a big problem with Pharma creative research.

Or rather…

I have a big problem with the creative research that I have been involved in thus far, within Pharmaland.

Maybe there are some forward thinking outfits out there that are breaking all the rules, I dunno.

But assuming I can wallow in my ignorance a little longer:

My problem is that while we have been thinking up devilishly clever 360 ideas that don’t revolve around a press ad anymore, (because our business is so much more than that these days). While the digital world entices us with mobile technology, wearable ideas, interactive relationship-building gizmos, while apps become more and more central to the way brands interact with both patients and HCPs, improving compliance and all that, after all this, what do we actually research?

A press ad.


Another press ad.

Would you present your 360 creative idea to a client the way you allow your idea to be researched?

To bastardise Henry Ford’s metaphor: we’re trying to judge how well a car performs by how well it leaps over show-jumping fences.

If an HCP is really going to be able to appreciate the fullness of your concept, and therefore give you real feedback, shouldn’t they be taken through the full glory of it? From leave-piece to detail-aid to conference stand to app? How it ladders up to social media? How the user generated content connects back to the app and allows for real-time compliance efficacy?

(I have no idea what I just wrote – digital strategy is easy!)

No, never mind all that, what’s the press-ad look like?

You can call it all sorts of things, ‘adcept’, ‘adlike object’ ‘concept board’ – but who are we fooling?

Now you could say that an idea, a good idea, if it is a good idea, should always be judged by what it looks like in simple terms. It should be judged minus the pomp and ceremony that photography, or production or digital application imbues it with.

And a few years ago I would have agreed with you.

But that just isn’t true anymore.

At least it isn’t the only benchmark of a good idea. It is one of them, but not the only one. You can’t judge a three dimensional object by how it looks in 2D.

Some ideas are bigger, more thrilling and all encompassing than a press ad can realistically capture.

The Novartis campaign to get tattoo artists to spot signs of melanoma, the IDIS campaign, the cancer texts campaign. The iron fish.

Frankly, it seems that concept research is lagging behind our creative pretensions.

If we want our brand work to match up to the more progressive pro-bono humanistic campaigns that populate Lions Health etc don’t we need to form more progressive ways to research our campaigns?

A ‘core visual’ is never going to do a campaign like The iron fish justice.

If we expect punters to get excited by the 360-ness of an idea, like we do, why not expose them to it?

The huge amount of case history films that now form the majority of awards entries, so that jury members can more readily understand the whole picture, shows that an idea can be fleshed out easily, with a little time and money.

Make it easy to grasp and you are half way there.

But how many times have you researched anything like a case history video to help your idea get target-market approval in the first place?

Unfortunately money and time don’t really find their way in to the nurturing of an idea as easily as they do to the other parts of the research process.

The only alternative is to change the way we research global concepts, allowing those big ideas to breathe and flourish.

But will research companies change?

Hmm, I might need to research this.



2 thoughts on “The show jumping car.

Add yours

  1. Thank you. I just Googled “forgettable pharma creative” and your blog came up. And I love it. Btw, I’m trying to write something along these lines – how most pharma ad research is bollocks. Any examples of truly crap HCP concepts that made it to production and then likely damaged brand revenues? Cheers. James

    1. Hi James, apologies for the late reply. Thanks for the nice remarks about the blog. I don’t really carry that kind of data, although my theory is, as in consumer advertising, we can assume 96% is crap anyway. And given that most work gets researched first, well…you can chose pretty much anything as an example. As for damaging brand revenues, that’s hard to say. However somebody recently sent me an ad for Tafinlar + Mekinist which featured a Trojan horse (again) which apparently was completely misunderstood and caused all sorts of issues for the client. Hope that helps.

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