Pharm Exec Ad Stars 2012

Apr 01, 2012

Getty images: Tetra Images
The campaigns chosen as Ad Stars this year include a diverse mix of clients, health conditions, and media channels. During the selection process, Pharm Exec perused awareness campaigns, direct-to-consumer and professional marketing, iPad applications designed specifically for sales reps, and campaigns that help recruit for clinical trials. Each of the campaigns were selected not only for their strength in relation to a particular therapeutic area, which is crucial, but also because something different in the creative caught our eye; not an easy task given the number of ads we're able to more or less ignore each day.

For many of these campaigns, the diseases they target represent distinctly different patient audiences—from elderly folks who need next-gen flu vaccines, to women suffering from tough-to-discuss vaginal dryness, to isolating and frightening conditions such as depression and schizophrenia. It's not the whiz and bang alone that makes for good medical advertising; it's the underlying knowledge of a disease, and what it means to have one, that leads to successful communication .

Marketers, including this year's Stars, always attempt to cater to their target audience—be it gastroenterologists or dermatologists—but rote market research alone doesn't provide enough paint for the portrait. Patients and doctors aren't all alike, but individual sentiment often reflects a common problem; understanding those problems from the perspective of the audience members leads to creative that's more persuasive, because it's more informed.

This idea of incorporating the patient perspective—into not only ads but in the healthcare delivery system as a whole—is not a new one, but it's a healthy movement that's growing. Increasingly, how patients feel about and react to their own health conditions is becoming a vital part of their diagnosis and treatment. In fact, Columbia University now has a graduate program centered around this idea, which they're referring to as narrative medicine: "Narrative Medicine fortifies clinical practice with the narrative competence to recognize, absorb, metabolize, interpret, and be moved by the stories of illness," reads Columbia's Narrative Medicine program website. "Through narrative training, the program in Narrative Medicine helps doctors, nurses, social workers, and therapists to improve the effectiveness of care by developing the capacity for attention, reflection, representation, and affiliation with patients and colleagues."

It seems only natural, then, to see this holistic, dynamic mindset spread into marketing as well. As healthcare providers are "moved by the stories of illness," so, too, are we moved by the advertising that captures those stories. (Whiz and bang usually doesn't hurt, either.)

There is no cure for schizophrenia, a disease that makes patients feel as if their mind, their families, and their lives are fragmented—much as the man pictured in the Latuda "Fragments" campaign created by AbelsonTaylor. The campaign, aimed at psychiatrists, shows "Joe," a schizophrenia patient who is left fragmented by his disease.

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