Abilify picked up an indication as an "add-on" treatment for depression in 2007—the drug is also approved for bipolar disorder
and schizophrenia—and that got Digitas Health thinking about what it means to be depressed. "Winston Churchill famously called
depression his 'black dog,'" say Jacqueline Nolan and Graham Mills, co-executive creative directors at Digitas Health, in
a co-authored email. "This intrigued us and so...we started asking people to do a drawing that described their depression."
The result was a wide variety of visual metaphors: a ball and chain, a robe, a hole in the ground, and an umbrella that rains
on the depressed person.
It would be difficult to film a umbrella raining on someone, and even harder to make the umbrella "alive," in the way that
it is in the newest Abilify spots, which use animation to make the inanimate metaphors real characters; they stalk their victims.
The campaign launched in the first quarter of 2011, and is ongoing, a testament to the ads' effectiveness. Animation is rare
in pharma advertising; although Deutsch used animated spots a few years ago for the depression drug Zoloft, those Don Hertzfeldt-inspired
spots were less compelling, and featured a blob-like humanoid, without a depression-personified character. The hand-drawn
Abilify ads stand out through a combination of the story/characters, and the quality of the illustration/animation, created
through a partnership with Th1ng, in London. Sylvain Chomet, producer of The Triplets of Belleville and The Illusionist, directed the TV spots.
But why are these animated spots so compelling? "Using animation makes it much easier for people to project themselves into
the film," say Nolan and Mills. "There can be a downside to using real people...if they don't look like you, it's harder to
identify with them." In other words, the single-line rendering of a cartoon character is an abstraction that lends itself
to audience subjectivity. And then there's depression, that sad-eyed bathrobe with its agoraphobic implications. "We wanted
to be able to show the daily struggle people have with their depression, however it's manifested," say Nolan and Mills. —BC
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is one of the most common types of lung disease, and it's a serious burden
for patients. Shortness of breath, and pain associated with deep breathing can give the impression of a heavy weight on the
patient's chest, but that isn't the only downside. Smoking is a leading cause of COPD, and many patients are made to feel
that they deserve the condition; blame often comes along with treatment.
Prior to DraftFCB Healthcare's Spiriva campaign, which features images of an elephant sitting variously on patients' chests,
a different agency attempted to flip the Surgeon General's warning, associating treatment with positives, but patients still
picked up the sense of guilt. However, the DraftFCB elephant campaign (which was shot using a real elephant—Rosie, who also
starred in the 2011 film Water for Elephants) suggests that COPD is a separate entity, albeit a large one. This way, patients can think about improving their condition
without any of the nagging blame associated with smoking.