The Rx Club's 25th Anniversary Show

The Rx Club Show celebrates 25 years of honoring the best in creative pharmaceutical advertising
Nov 01, 2011

Rx Club Show 25TH Anniversary

For the last 25 years, Ina and Carveth Kramer's Rx Club Show has provided awards and a showcase for the very best in pharmaceutical marketing creative, with a focus on ideas and artistry instead of ROI. That focus, on the element of art in advertising (assuming these two concepts aren't mutually exclusive), attempts to reward those creative teams most willing to do what artists do: expose themselves fully to a culture, and then through a process of invention and distillation, create something new that speaks to and shapes that culture going forward. In the healthcare space, med/legal restrictions, like poetic modes, provide a normative form for experimentation.

The Rx Club Show has evolved to reflect the dramatic technological changes over the last 25 years, but as Richard Prince, who got his start in advertising, has said, "The subject comes first, the medium second." Those working in the creative disciplines know that the iPad isn't the originator of big ideas; instead, big ideas are brought to bear on the iPad and its capabilities. The function of media is to transmit, not create.

With that said, what big ideas received The Rx Club Show's accolades this year? A glance at the winning ads reveals a few trends worth mentioning. First, there is an intriguing prevalence of conflict, if not outright combativeness. Taglines such as "Heart-won victories" (CDM) and "You've won the battle, don't lose the war" (Langland), position disease as a figurative antagonist, something to literally fight against. Dudnyk's corporate branding ads reflect the agency's stated "adapt or die" mentality, with imagery that likens the quest for market share to a street fight, or an aggressive football game. Perhaps the global economic situation is bringing out the fight in all of us.

The second trend has to do with 'otherness,' or the idea that a health condition isn't a physiological part of who we are; it's an elephant sitting on your chest (Draftfcb Healthcare). Glucose toxicity turns a hamburger into a spider, French fries into a scorpion (Sudler & Hennessey Milan). In GSW Worldwide's print ads, negative perceptions themselves—about taking mealtime insulin, in this case—are depicted as hulking monsters. It's not simply an anthropomorphic projection of human characteristics onto animals; the symptoms of disease are the animals—that is, they are alien and separate from the human condition. Again, more evidence of the attack mode to draw audience attention.

A third trend focuses on the connectivity of patients and healthcare providers, with Indegene Lifesystems' Virtual Patient Concierge, McCann Healthcare Worldwide Japan's See The Cold, and Saatchi Wellness's Wall of Survivorship. See The Cold, an online visual locator of cold outbreaks, was built for SSP, a division of Boehringer Ingelheim, and won the gold for best consumer website. In the future, it will be interesting to see how creative directors straddle this divide, between patient connectedness and community, and the very individual battle against a health condition. In the meantime, medical science will proceed in its role as the Pied Piper of disease, luring patients and providers into sampling new treatments. In an increasingly crowded therapeutic field, advertising has no choice but to be positioned to help drive uptake post launch.

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