Christmas comes to Pharmaland.

Think about it. They call it the greatest story ever told.

Actually it’s the greatest healthcare ad campaign that ever ran. It’s text book marketing.

Firstly, you have a blockbuster product that can solve all ills.

Then you have 12 KOLs ready to advocate.

You have a wonderfully written idetail, (previously in hard back.)

You have patient stories inside that make the whole thing come alive.

You have ten important guidelines for prescribing.

You have conference centres designed entirely for the symposiums dedicated to your product, all over the world. (Every Sunday)

You even have jingles that everyone knows.

You have salesmen (and now women) who go in to the community and spread the word.

And you have the promise of ever-lasting life.

And no medics to say you can’t say that.

And it’s available everywhere.

All you need is three wise men and some cattle.

Now that’s a case history.

Merry Christmas one and all.


A fitting end to 2015.

I read with interest today the announcement that the ground-breaking crowd sourcing website ‘idea bounty’ is to close its doors.

This was from the email they sent today:

“It was our assumptions about clients where we went wrong. It turns out that no-risk ideas just aren’t that appealing, especially to those spending someone else’s money, as they tend to favour the safety of a big agency brand over the riskiness of an idea borne of an independent thinker. This reality was compounded by the huge amount of effort required to sift through the ideas. The average brief received over 1000 ideas and this was always a herculean task especially as we always wanted to ensure that every idea received its deserved attention.”

In the light of this sad demise of a truly pioneering company, here’s a crazy, half-baked idea.

What if we set up a company that had a professional creative team working full time on a clients business, who really understood their needs and goals and then clients could pay for a sort of I dunno…a creative director let’s call them….to sift through the gazillion crappy ideas so they didn’t have to.

Then clients could show up to a meeting and see the best three or four concepts and choose from one of them.

Then go to lunch.

Of course it would have to be a respected group of ad professionals who they wouldn’t mind spending time with and who they could trust.

That would cut out the hassle and you know what, maybe they wouldn’t mind paying for a service like that?

Let’s call it a…ooh I dunno…an advertising agency perhaps.

Who’s with me?



‘Merry Mythmas’ blaggers, more blags from me in the new year. Thanks for reading, sharing and all the compliments. It really means a lot.

Fortune favours the safe.

I was recently in a pre-pitch meeting and somebody quoted the old line ‘nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM’

It suddenly occurred to me that she was using it in a positive sense. Because she had always thought of it that way.

The safe choice is the wise choice.

Now I don’t know about you but I had always seen it as a negative statement.

Even if it doesn’t work no one will question your choice.

I suppose in some ways we were both right. It depends on your perspective.

Of course most people are happy with not getting fired. Why wouldn’t they be?

But where there is no risk, dull advertising is never too far away. Without risk we are liable to wallow in familiarity, those endless shots of cars on winding mountain roads make everyone feel safe and cosy, but you know…does anybody care?

I think, as creatives, we have to accept the inconvenient truth that a mediocre idea…with enough budget behind it to drill in to our consciousness, and a half-decent product can do a half-decent job. The problem is that everyone has begun to accept ‘half-decent’ as high achieving.

That’s not to say that a lot of effort and heartache goes in to producing mediocre work, and people get just as protective of it.

Check out the letters section of Campaign. It’s always sprinkled with clients and agencies who claim that their campaign, despite universal scorn or worse – indifference – has seen an upturn in sales and everyone at TheBigCarCompany is delighted with the launch of the New BoringHatchback’s ‘Winding mountain road’ campaign thank you very much.

But there are couple of advertising’s equivalent to Viagra (and Pharmaland’s latest attempt for the ladies flibanserin) when everything gets a bit hot under the collar.

In the run up to Christmas marketeers suddenly behave like teenagers on prom night.

Suddenly water-cooler discussions are back, everyone starts talking about ads, it’s like the 80’s again. Have you seen the new John Lewis ad? The new Sainsbury’s ad? Harvey Nichols? What about that new Duran Duran album?

Yes, I know that retail’s busiest time is seasonal and therefore it makes sense, but take the infamous Superbowl ad breaks.

When you get that Superbowl brief (I imagine) you know the stakes are high. Everyone is expecting something that will give all concerned fame and glory and you’re up against the best of the best. Clients who previously may have been ultra-conservative suddenly loosen their girdles and want their agency to dazzle them.…that’s what every day should be like shouldn’t it? It’s the same audience out there every day, why not wow them at every opportunity?

But hey, I know as much as anyone it’s easier said than done. (I speak as an expert in producing mediocre campaigns)

Clients can see the benefit of a big Christmas or Superbowl campaign because they can see the benefit their competitors get from it and they want a piece of the action.

Well, if EVERYBODY is being creative I guess we should too…

Then it’s back to every day comfort zones.

When everyone does more or less as well as each other there is no pressure to be extraordinary.

The bar is a nice comfy height that we can all leap over.

The question is, how much of a Dick Frosby are you?






2014’s heartwarming Christmas pharma campaigns.

While the world squabbles over the relative merits or otherwise of the John lewis Monty the penguin ad (16 million views) and a certain WW1 footballing (10 million views) spot I thought I’d divert your gaze to Pharmaland’s big Christmas campaigns for a quick overview.

And I must say this year’s crop are laying on the schmaltz like only the great pharma ads can.

First up is the new Viagra spot, which launched in the middle of I’m a celebrity.

For those of you who missed it, it features a rosy-cheeked man in his sixties with a hipsterish long white beard and a big wobbly belly, which could be full of jelly, but it’s hard to tell.


The Rosy-cheeked hipster in the Viagra ad

He and his saucy 25 year old wife are hanging up their stockings on Christmas eve but simply can’t find anywhere to hang them. Nothing seems to catch and there are no hooks in their wooden cabin….but wait a minute…a small blue pill and a glass of water later and the young wife’s eyes widen as she looks downward…and yes folks, problem solved and the stocking is hung.

And hung well.

The endline…’We’re up for Christmas, are you?’ was a nice heartwarming touch.

The equally heartwarming Lipitor ad first hit our screens during Xfactor and aims to remind us all that Christmas lunch and all the hullabaloo of the party season is no reason to lose control of your health.

It features a doctor the size of a ‘good angel’ who lands on a patient’s shoulder during the party season. She wags her fingers as she whispers in to his ear.

The final scene is our patient hero as he is served a nice green salad at a big family Christmas lunch and while everyone else is happily tucking in to turkey he munches cheerily on a lettuce leaf and sips a glass of sparkling water.

The song is a reworded version of ‘white Christmas’ with the words ‘I’m dreaming of a slight Christmas’ replacing the original.

The endline ‘It’s what Christmas is Cholesterolabout’ is cheesy (low fat) but heartwarming.

The Warfarin campaign started life on youtube and has become a social media sensation even before it dominated our screens with Colin the Christmas clot. As you no doubt will have seen on your Facebook or twitter feed, it features the heartwarming animated story of a small blood cell who is looking for love but simply can’t find a partner to ‘get together with’.

Colin the clot

Colin the blood cell’s animated love story

Even at Christmas he has no luck at the office party, until his eyes meet a lady blood cell’s eyes across a crowded dance floor.

They smooch to Frankie goes to Hollywood’s ‘power of love’ and are about to kiss when a security guard with the word ‘Warfarin’ on his lapel steps in and separates them. He angrily points to a sign that reads ‘STRICTLY NO CLOTTING’ and Colin is booted out of the party and we see him walk dejectedly to the bus stop.

The voice over tells us, ‘Because bleedin’ Christmas is about not getting together’ in what I presume is Ray Winstone doing his usual cockney performance.

I know I had a lump in my throat when I first saw it.

Lastly the campaign for Aracipt featuring an old lady who is left all alone in a nursing home on Christmas day until her entire family show up to give her presents. I loved her line “who are you all again?”

At this time of year when people are over indulging and generally disregarding their health with gay abandon it’s nice to see that the pharma advertising industry is making the most of it and really ramping-up the communications beyond just flu vaccinations.

I mean, imagine if we just totally ignored it and didn’t maximise it at all?