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Last Call To Enter 4A’s 2016 Partner Award in Health & Wellness


December 14, 2015.

The venerable, 98-year old American Association for Advertising (AAAA or 4A’s) is opening its arms wide and welcoming the return of its prodigal son -the healthcare agency and its clients-by including a Health & Wellness category in its 2016 Partner Award for “the best in partnerships that create the most memorable work in Advertising.”

After years of being notoriously underrepresented at industry awards shows, healthcare agencies are being given a place at the table. “With this year’s Partner Award we have the opportunity to honor the collaboration between agencies and organizations that promote health and wellness,” says 4A’s President and CEO Nancy Hill. “Entries can include campaigns for corporate branding, education and awareness, and OTC, lifestyle, devices and pharmaceutical products.”

But wait, what was that about a prodigal son returning and from where?

Fact is (though perhaps not widely known) patent medicines and the advertising industry have been inextricably linked from the get-go. Called nostrum remedium (“our remedy” in Latin) in the 19th Century, drugs were the first product ever to be promoted.  Indeed, their branders or nostrum sellers (as they were known then) were the pioneers of print advertising, “pull” or demand stimulation strategies, distinctive packaging as well as disease awareness, and more.

However, the marketing of  drugs to consumers also hit a nerve from the get-go. Novelist Henry James from Boston called the branders “‘Nostrumongers' who lead consumers on.”  His brother William, a noted psychologist, chimed in. “Medical advertisements are an abomination,” he said and demanded the “Nostrumongers” be treated “as public enemies and shown no mercy.”  And so it goes-a nerve that never stops twitching, even today. Note last month’s demand by the American Medical Association (AMA) for a ban on pharma’s direct-to-consumer advertising. It could have been a page from the James brothers' playbook  over 100 years ago.

Of course, the new lexicon of health and wellness with its emphasis on personal fitness and being in control of your body is not exactly in sync with the terminology of battling disease, sickness and suffering associated with pharmaceuticals. How then should pharma companies and their brand teams position health and wellness effectively in a promotion campaign?

And further, on the eve of the 4A’s Partner Award entry deadline (February 12th),  what’s needed for a pharma brand to win in a health and wellness category?

For answers, PharmExec (media sponsor of the 4A’s Health & Wellness Partner Award category) asked an expert-Jay Carter,  Senior Vice President, Director of Strategy Services, AbelsonTaylor. Carter is a big picture guy, strategic, and a senior leader in the entire field of bio and pharma promotion.

“The promotion of pharmaceuticals is all about health and wellness,” said Carter, putting to rest any inherent contradiction between the two. “At the end of the day, the value of a pharmaceutical product is delivered by reducing the cost of a disease or outcome, which is what's been overtly promoted by our industry for more than half a century. Some of my favorite work is by Parke Davis in the 50’s     (see http://bit.ly/1M5c6fp) promoting pharmacotherapy versus non-treatment. And my favorite quote is by the infamous John Ehrlichman, who described HMOs this way: ‘All the incentives are toward less medical care, because the less care given, the more money HMOs make.’

“I think the most practical way to describe pharma in health and wellness is to describe a Venn diagram. Health and wellness” envelops pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, and even vitamin beer when it is inevitably launched. I like working on the side of the angels,” said Carter.

And as far as winning awards, Carter is an expert in that, too. The Chicago-based AbelsonTaylor founded by Dale Taylor is the largest independent medical advertising agency in the world and famed for never letting regulatory restrictions put a damper on developing highly innovative, and effective creative to promote pharmaceutical brands. And it has the awards to prove it-far too many to list. Suffice to say, these days AbelsonTaylor doesn’t even have to submit to win. In 2015, four of AbelsonTaylor’s creative projects won national recognition from DTC Perspectives, the leading conference, training and publishing company for direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing. The agency hadn’t even known it was being considered. 

Five Strategies To Win

So, what’s the secret sauce? Carter’s creative philosophy, the one that drove the creation of all those awards and has guided him for 20 years, consists of five points:

  • Is the promotion relevant? Have you noticed that car ads are far more interesting when you are buying a car? Promotion needs to be instantly relevant to the purveyor, or it will not work

  • Is the brand distinctive? Ask a group of people who watched TV in the 70’s what their favorite Samsonite ad is, and 4 of 5 will cite the famous “gorilla” ad – for American Tourister. If the brand does not own the imagery, it is selling for someone else

  •  Is the brand emotional? I believe that emotion ratchets up both relevance and distinctiveness. And the emotion need not be humor. We can use imagery to imply courage, heroism, fear, and confidence.

  • Is the communication quick? Nobody gives you time to sell to them… you have to take it. One of the key reasons why we kill ideas at our agency is because, while they are on point strategically and clever, they’re “movies.” It takes time to invest in the idea, and customers just don’t give you time.

  • Is the idea campaignable? We live in a multi-vector world, and promotion needs to live online, in a brochure, in video, and in the hands of a representative. Branding is no place for a one-trick pony.

“For me,” says Carter. “The best honor is using the work to drive the health of today’s consumers and patients. That’s why I go to work in the morning.”

To enter the 2016 4A’s Partner Award Health & Wellness category submit entries by Feb. 12, 2016. Winners will be announced at the 4A's Transformation Conference, March 22, 2016, in Miami, FL. For further details, go to http://partnerawards.aaaa.org/





Marylyn Donahue

Editor | Special Projects

Pharmaceutical Executive

UBM Americas | Life Sciences Group


845-706-0770 | m

212-600-3302 | t




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