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Category: Medical Advertising

Passive Smoking Kills




Richard Poster, one of the most acclaimed creative persons in advertising of our times created this freelance poster. He wrote that he created this originally for AMV (Abbott Mead Vickers) sometime in 1997) for the client NHS but it never ran.

Richard Wrote in The Copybook:How Some of the World’s Best Advertising Writers Write their Advertising that Later, in 2007 this poster appeared for The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation ad by the CHI agency.

In 1980, Richard Foster joined the board of the fledgling Abbott Mead Vickers, where he spent the next twenty-five years helping AMV become one of Britain’s biggest and most creatively awarded agency.

Bill Bernbach on Creativity

Bill Bernbach (August 13, 1911 - October 2, 1982)

Bill Bernbach (August 13, 1911 – October 2, 1982)

William (Bill) Bernbach, the legendary founder of DDB (Doyle Dane Bernbach), noted for his devotion to creativity and offbeat themes was a major force behind the Creative Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. His work often was characterised by simplicity. What is more, he was a philosopher, a scientist, and a humanitarian. The creative revolution he ignited changed the world of communications and business forever.

Bernbach won many awards and honours for his work within the advertising industry.

1964: Inducted into the Copywriters Hall of Fame

1964: Received the Man of the Year of Advertising

1965: Received the Man of the Year of Advertising

1966: Received The Pulse Inc., Man of the Year Award

1969: Named Top Advertising Agency Executive

1976: Received the American Academy of Achievement Award

1976: Inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Fame

Bernbach designed the Advertising Hall of Fame Golden Ladder trophy.

Bob Levenson, the DDB (Doyle Dane Bernbach) captured the essence of the creative spirit of Bill    Bill Bernbach in his brilliant book, Bernbach’s Book: A History of Advertising that Changed the History of Advertising.

What are the views and beliefs of one of the most creative brains of the advertising industry? Bernbach had very strong and clear views on what creativity is about. Here’s his take on creativity. It might as well serve as a guide to all creative persons in the world today, tomorrow and even the day after…

“1. Merely to let your imagination run riot to dream unrelated dreams, to indulge in graphic acrobatics and verbal gymnastics, is NOT being creative. The The creative person has harnessed his imagination. He has disciplined it so that every thought, every idea, every line he draws, every light and shadow in every photograph he takes, makes more vivid, more believable, more persuasive the original theme or product advantage he has decided he must convey.

2. The most important element for process in ad writing is the product itself. A ‘great’ campaign will only make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to try it and find out how bad it is.

3. It is ironic that the very thing that is most suspect by business, that intangible thing called artistry, turns out to be the most practical tool available for it is only artistry that can vie with all the shocking news events and violence in the world for the attention of the consumer.

4. Principles endure, formulas don’t. You must get attention to your ad. this is a principle that will always be true. How you get attention is a subtle, ever-changing thing. What is attractive one day may be dull the next.

5. Logic and overanalyses can immobilise and sterilise an idea. It’s like love – – – the more you analyse it the faster it disappears.”

Maurice Hilleman, The Man Who Saved Most Lives

Maurice Ralph Hilleman (August 30, 1919 - April 11, 2005)

Maurice Ralph Hilleman (August 30, 1919 – April 11, 2005)

How many people today would know the man behind childhood immunization? Hardly anyone. But with more than 40 vaccines to his credit, he saves millions of lives each year.

Hilleman has produced a mind-blogging number of fundamental breakthroughs. He invented more than 40 vaccines, including those that prevent measles, mumps, rubella, Haemophilus influenze type b, hepatitis A, hepatitis B and chickenpox. Of the 14 vaccines routinely recommended in current vaccine schedules, he developed eight. According to one estimate, his vaccines save over 8 million lives a year. What is more, Hilleman is credited with saving more lives than any other medical scientist of the 20th century.

After receiving his doctoral degree in microbiology in 1941, Hilleman joined E.R. Squibb & Sons (now Bristol-Myers Squibb) in 1944, where he developed a vaccine against Japanese B encephalitis, a disease that threatened American troops in the Pacific Ocean theater of World War II. Later as chief of the Department of Respiratory Diseases at Army Medical Center (now the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research) he developed a vaccine for influenza. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal from the American military for his work.

Hilleman joined Merck & Co as head of its new virus and cell biology research department in West Point, Pennsylvania, where he developed most of the forty experimental and licensed animal and human vaccines working both at the laboratory bench as well as providing scientific leadership.

Although Hilleman retired as senior vice president of the Merck Research Labs in 1984, when he was 65, he continued to direct the research efforts in immunology at the newly created Merck Institute of Virology for the next twenty years. He was Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia at the time of his death on April 11, 2005, at the age of 85.

Adel Mahmoud, president of the Merck Vaccine Division, the company which produced seven vaccines in 2005, all of which were invented by Maurice Hilleman had this to say about Hilleman, “ This guy, whatever he touched, he developed a vaccine out of it. We owe him an incredible, incredible debt.”

All of us do.

Often a Bridesmaid, But Never a Bride!

Here is one of the 100 greatest advertisements in the history of advertising, which can help us understand in defining a problem and find a creative solution to achieve uncommon success! It’s the famous Listerine advertisement – Often a bridesmaid, but never a bride… and the story behind it.

Fred Leigh wrote the lyrics for a song sung by the Victorian singer, Vesta Victoria (1864-1952). The Lyrics are:

Why am I always a bridesmaid

Never the blushing bride

Ding! Dong! Wedding bells

Always ring for other gal

But one fine day –

Please let it be soon –

I shall wake up in the morning

On my own honeymoon.

Gordon Seagrove and Milton Feasley (wrote the copy) in 1923 created a campaign that would last for decades together tackling the difficult, sensitive, delicate and challenging subject of halitosis (bad breath) to the public. They created the fear of bad breath and its consequences in a social situation. They used a case study approach and built a story around a character, Edna, who has always been a bridesmaid, but never a bride. The picture was that of a lonely, forsaken Edna, who was unable to find love because of halitosis.

The solution: Listerine mouthwash.

Listerine immortalized the phrase, “Often a bridesmaid, but never a bride,” with a series of ads throughout this endearing and enduring campaign.

This ad is a revised version in the 1950s of the original ad of 1923.

Listerine repeated its own successful campaign in the 1950s with a more contemporary look. Edna is changed to Eleanor, but the problem was the same.Although men were attracted to her, their interest soon turned into indifference. Poor Eleanor did not have a clue why they dropped her so quickly… and even her best friend would not tell her.

Why risk the stigma of halitosis, when you have Listerine?

The Response? In just seven years since its original campaign in 1923, the company’s revenues rose from $ 115,000 to $ 8 million.

As the advertising scholar, James Twitchell wrote about coining of the word ‘halitosis‘ by the Lambert Company, ” Listerine did not make a mouth wash as much as it made halitosis!”

Medical Advertising: Pletal’s Attention-Grabbing Campaign!

Pletal Med Ad

Prescription-drug advertising requires a message, which quickly and clearly defines the product: what it is and what it does and why it is the best alternative.

Consider the case of a new brand in the market for intermittent claudication in the U.S.  For a long time Trental (pentoxyfylline) was rather the lone wolf having a dominant presence. Trental aggressively promoted the brand including a DTC campaign. But when it went generic in 1987, the promotional effort virtually came to a grinding halt. There was no immediate successor for almost fifteen years and consequently the treatment of intermittent claudication decreased. Furthermore, market research revealed that many physicians doubted that there was much more than placebo effect in pharmaceuticals for the condition. What is more, many patients as well as physicians accepted this symptom merely as an inevitable consequence of aging.

Pletal’s (cilostazol) advertising campaign, launched in the year 2000, offers a classic example of reviving interest in the product class and establishing the brand firmly in the minds of physicians. Otuska America Pharmaceutical and Pharmacia Corporation jointly marketed Pletal, for effective treatment of intermittent claudication, a symptom of peripheral arterial disease where a patient, usually elderly, will experience pain or cramping in the calf, thigh, or buttock when walking, that stops upon rest. The drug has vasodilatory and anti-platelet activity, which increases blood flow to the extremities.

The challenge for the marketing team on the brand was that the product category had drifted out of the prescribing physician’s consciousness. The creative assignment, therefore, was to revive physician and patient interest in the category and deliver a message of effectiveness convincingly.

The copy testing showed that physicians liked the idea of quality-of-life messages as positive activities such as walking faster without pain. The end-benefit approach – the smiling patient was not as appealing as most of the prescription-drug advertisements were fact-oriented, effectiveness-based increasing the skepticism of physicians to pharma advertising in general and a low-interest category in particular.

Phil Wiener, the vice-president and group art director at the advertising agency PACE, came up with an idea of combining a shoe with an odometer, when he was experimenting with graphic devices to represent Pletal’s effectiveness – visuals of improvement in walking such as multiple footprints and calculators of distance. When he showed this idea to ED Shankman, vice president and group director, copy at the agency, he wrote the copy line: More miles per lifetime on the spot spontaneously. The distinct product-defining element had been created.

The opening page of the ad presents the viewer with the close up of an oversized shoe with an odometer superimposed on it, filling almost the entire page with a telling impact stopping the reader in his tracks. Copy on the shoe between the laces and toe reads:

For your patients with

Intermittent claudication

Pletal offers more…

And beneath this text is the mileage dial of an odometer displaying a five-digit figure. The ad had raised the curiosity as to the more offered by Pletal and the relevance of odometer’s numbers. Pages two and three of the ad and the sales aid pay off the tease of the previous page. Running across the spread in a forceful display is the headline, More Miles per Lifetime, explaining the more and the odometer shoe. There is realistic, everyday picture of a gray-haired oder man seated in an easy chair tying his shoelaces. The shoes are properly sized with odometer on both shoes.

The tone of the copy or message too has changed from an imaginary odometer shoe to a practical patient-focused situation. The human element has been added; the patient, having been benefited from the use of Pletal, is preparing to go for a walk and across the bottom of the page in a strip photo of him striding along a path in a park-like setting. Copy on page three is minimal and straight forward:

Clinically proven to improve pain-free walking distance in patients diagnosed with intermittent claudication.

Pletal, The first therapy approved in 15 years for intermittent claudication

In the 12-page sales aid, what follows are pages on efficacy, mechanism of Pletal’s action, safety, dosing, and other mandatory product background.

Furthermore, on successive spreads, running along the top of the pages, the gray-haired man is seen as he walks through his neighborhood – past a line of stores accompanied by his dog, again in a park now with a female companion, on suburban street with a male friend, and lastly, on a seaside boardwalk with a child. As the representative reviews the scientific data on Pletal with the physician, the strip photos illustrate the patient benefits of the product, consistently and continuously highlighting the core theme – greater walking distance without pain. In other words, More miles per lifetime!

The advertising appeal comes from the fusion of two ordinary recognizable things – shoes and odometer. The giant-sized shoe is a strong impact device as its real value is fundamental to the patient condition and to the product. This ad ran in a number of leading medical journals.

The campaign’s strength and effectiveness lies in the physicians’ appreciation that the product can restore the patient’s independence. The symbolism of the easy chair too is important. Thanks to Pletal, we can get the patient out of that chair and moving again! 

Can you think of creating a graphic device and write compelling copy to highlight the core patient benefit that your product presents to grab the attention of physicians in today’s attention-deficit market place and sustain it?



Creativity in Medical Advertising

Terramycin Ad

This 1952 ad for Pfizer’s Terramycin is one of the most creative ads in Medical Advertising. McAdams advertising agency created this ad and John Kallir wrote the copy.

Describing the 1950s as the golden period of medical advertising, Medicine Avenue wrote:

1950s heralded the wonder drug era. Diseases previously untreatable suddenly could be cured or alleviated by new medication. American pharmaceutical industry, American medicine and the Wall Street shared this triumph of new chemical and biological discoveries that significantly improved public health and quality of living.

Consequently, medical advertising agencies had the enviable task of delivering the inspiring message of technological advances to healthcare practitioners. Medical advertising reflected this technological revolution through a comparable transformation with impactful graphics, challenging copy and media saturation strategies.

If a watershed event in this transition can be identified, it is probably the intensive campaign McAdams conducted under the leadership of Dr. Sackler for Pfizer’s Terramycin.

Best of Medical Advertising: Bold, Emotional Copy, and Powerful Imagery Win!


The primary concern and treatment objective of oncologists understandably is to eliminate cancer. Treating the excruciating pain is important but secondary. Therefore, in their drive to eliminate cancer, oncologists can be relatively less concerned about treating the excruciating breakthrough pain that many late stage cancer patients experience. If you want to market a powerful pain medication how do you gain and sustain the attention of oncologists and persuade them to make it as important?

Here is what the Archimedes Pharma and their advertising agency Area 23 (A Draft FCB Company) did for their Lazanda®, the brand of fentanyl nasal spray professional print campaign.

First, they have acknowledged the important work that oncologists are doing in fighting the cancer to make their pain story break through the wall of pain denial. Furthermore, they gave them a glimpse of something more that is still needed of them through an emotional and powerful, ‘Thank You, but...’ approach.

The black-and-white photographic portraits of patients conveying the harshness of breakthrough pain with distressed facial expressions were palpable and created a strong emotional impact. The photography was evocative and the lines were great communicating that the cancer pain message in a telling manner. Here is the copy of the ads:

You’re saving my life but sometimes I wish I was dead.

Lazanda works on the break through pain while you work on the cancer.

This ad won the Gold Award of Medical Media and Marketing for excellence in print ads category for the launch of a new prescription drug.

Look at what bold, good, emotional copy, executed with powerful imagery, and type could do a print ad. The same thing holds good for a detail piece or drop-off literature, mailer or an electronic version of your product communication.

Can you draw inspiration from this and think of creating unforgettable and moving communications for your products?

You Press the Button, We Do the Rest…

You Press the Button, We Do the Rest…. ad first appeared in 1890. This is second in the list of the ‘100 Great Advertisements: Who Wrote Them and What They Did‘, a book written by Julian Lewis Watkins, which was first published in 1949.

The final copy you see in the advertisement was literally cut out of a long copy by the great inventor and the founder of the KODAK company, George Eastman himself.

This ad was among the first to shake loose the shutterbug movement and home-picture-making instinct in the United States to start with and later the rest of the world.

It is amazing how direct and simple the ad and how it highlights the ease-of-use and addresses the aspirational photographer in everyone.

Curiosity, Courage and Creativity

Curiosity is a quality related to inquisitive thinking such as exploration, investigation, and learning. Children are curious by nature. Their exploration is full of awe and wonder. That’s why perhaps, Baudelaire, the famous French poet and essayist described childhood as genius recovered at will. He said that if you can revisit the wonder of childhood you can taste genius.

Gary Zukav wrote in his national award winning book, The Dancing Wu Li Masters,“ Those who must have felt the exhilaration of the creative process are those who best have slipped the bonds of the known and venture far into the unexplored territory, which lies beyond the barrier of the obvious. This type of person has two characteristics: The first is a childlike ability to see the world as it is, and not as it appears to be according to what we know about it.”

Jean Piaget, the famous Swiss psychologist and philosopher known for his epistemological studies with children agrees. He wrote, “ Stay in part a child, with the creativity and invention that characterizes children before they are deformed by adult society.”

Consider these characteristics, which have a lot to do to enhance creativity are the natural traits of children. Children don’t have blockages because children don’t know about before. They only know about now. That is why when searching for a solution to a problem they look and see freshly for themselves every time. They break rules because they do not know that rules exist. They constantly see new relationships among seemingly unrelated things. They study ordinary things very intently –  a blade of grass, a spoon, a face – and everything. They have a sense of wonder about things that most of us take for granted.

Carl Sagan said, “ Kids are natural-born scientists. They ask deep scientific questions: Why is the moon round? Why is the sky blue? What’s a dream? What’s the birthday of the world? By the time they get into high school, they hardly ever ask questions like that.”

Neil Postman, American author, media theorist and cultural critic aptly observed that children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.

Want to be creative? If you answer yes to these the following questions you can certainly be creative.

Can you become a question mark again?

Can you become a child again and become curious about things?

Can you capture the sense and spirit of wonder of things you see around you, which you are currently taking for granted.

Be more like a child. Be curious.

Courage is not the absence of fear. It is going ahead in spite of danger, in spite of being afraid or feeling despair, pointed out all great thinkers such as Kierkegaard, Hemingway, Nietzsche, Sartre, and Camus.

Courage is important as it helps in your tenacity to stick with an idea generation process. It also gives you the conviction that you can generate more ideas in the face of rejection and stiff opposition. This is essential for a creative person. Because, as Charles Bower, the head of an advertising agency said, “ An idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer of a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man’s brow.”

The fear of rejection shuts down their idea factories, said Jack Foster, the famous ad man.

Robert Grudin in his book, The Grace of Great Things: Creativity and Innovation, wrote, “ Creativity is dangerous. We cannot open ourselves to new insights without endangering the security of our prior assumptions. We cannot propose new ideas without risking disapproval and rejection.”

People who criticize and oppose your ideas also are afraid. Afraid of your ideas. Because, ideas by their very nature can change things. They threaten the status quo.

If you are ideas are turned down, don’t get upset. Double your resolve and generate more ideas. Your ideas, if they are rejected they are not necessarily bad. Don’t look at rejection as a defeat. Remember nobody can stop an idea whose time has come. May be those ideas are ahead of their times.

Jack Foster says, “ Never cry over the spilled milk. Find a better use for it or invent a better milk carton.”

Draw inspiration from what Robert Grudin said: “ Creative achievement is the boldest initiative of the mind. An adventure that takes its hero simultaneously to the rim of knowledge and the limits of propriety.”

The creative challenge is truly inspiring and its spirit is brilliantly captured by Robert Grudin again when said, “ Its pleasure is not the comfort of the safe harbor, but the thrill of reaching sail.”

Be curious. Have courage to generate ideas. Be Creative!