A Foreign Affair
Since its inception, the Rx Club Awards have honored agencies from the United States and abroad. But this year more than others, judges were especially impressed with the pharma ad work being done globally, particularly in India.
"There seemed to be a broader range of international entries," says Rx Club Awards founder Ina Kramer. "We had so many foreign countries participating."
"India is right now on a boom," says Anand Krishna, associate account director at Sudler & Hennessey, India. "We are on the radar for IT outsourcing, training, and definitely advertising. The Rx Club Awards has given India a platform to showcase our healthcare communication work." This is particularly important because, in India, companies are not allowed to advertise drugs to consumers. "So, every day is a challenge to come up with new media," says Krishna.
"These kinds of ads are global, so if you can understand the concept without words, or with few words, then that's a killer concept," says Annie Wu, art supervisor at FCB Healthcare and a 2006 Rx Club Awards judge.
Mike Devlin, executive creative director at CCA Advertising, says that many of the ads that made him pause and smile came from BBDO Mexico, including "Cigarette Obsession"—developed for Pfizer's Nicorette—which shows how everyday activities, like drinking alcohol, present roadblocks to quitting smoking.
Design for the Times
There were fewer "slice of life" ads presented this year. Instead, more abstract, creative designs captured judges' attention. Ad execs kept things simple, choosing to forego text-heavy designs. The number of interactive and video entries were consistent with last year's submissions, but the actual number of winners dropped.
Grey Healthcare Group also received high accolades for its call-for-entries print ad, "Concept to Conception," which depicts a drop of paint landing in a flask and forming a fetus. The image is moving and provocative, with little need for text.
The debate continues over whether pharma advertising should take a consumer approach to design. This year, the Rx Club Awards entries included more ads with a touch of satire, including GSW Worldwide's gold-award-winning posters for its charitable initiative called Grace. The posters spoofed popular ads from Apple, Marlboro, and Nike.
Abelson-Taylor's gold-winning campaign for sleep aid Rozerem struck an emotional chord with judges. The ad depicts sleep-deprived people longing for the strange dreams they used to have when they could sleep soundly. Both the consumer and physician ads for the product come off as fun and enlightening.
"It's so graphic that it has to capture the reader's attention," Vincent says. "The idea of an elephant standing on your kneecap immediately expresses the idea of pain."
"I'm not quite sure that that's the acme of creativity, but it's definitely a trend," Fening says. "Direct mail needs to get attention. When doctors or staff open it up and it has a voice chip, it's another way to send a message."
One trend that some judges wish would go away is the use of massive text on physician ads. While some agencies have made a conscious effort to improve their designs, others can't shake the habit of using huge fonts and headlines.
Similar comments were made about a number of ads that featured charts. The consensus was that any information that can be put in a chart, can instead be bullet pointed for more impact and style.
"Catching a doctor's attention in a focused, unique way is the best piece of communication," says David Garson, senior vice president and creative director of art at The CementWorks. "If you don't do that, they aren't going to stop long enough to read the content."
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