The role of tattoos, man-boobs and dolls in today’s healthcare communications
Creativity and innovation aren’t traditionally associated with healthcare and pharma campaigns. Flair in these cases has been seen as inappropriate, with industry-specific ethical and legal constraints posing additional challenges for marketers and advertisers. However, as people’s relationship towards healthcare changes, and the industry adapts to it, there’s also been a shift in communications and advertising.
The launch of Cannes’ Lions Health Festival in 2014 established a new, independent platform to showcase creative work for the industry. The two-day festival, which precedes Cannes Lions, is sub-divided into two categories, Health & Wellness and Pharma.
Since the festival’s inception, several Lions Health prizes have been awarded for campaigns out of Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Colombia. For Rui Piranda, creative director at FCB and former member of the Lions Health Jury, Brazil’s success is rooted in an understanding of how to communicate with more humanity.
“The year I was in the jury, almost 70 per cent of the entries were American and yet they hardly won anything,” Piranda says. “That’s because they’re too rigid, too 'old school’. Brazilians are more easy-going. There’s a way of communicating these issues that makes people feel closer to their own health – like it’s an integral part of their lives (which it is) – less dramatic and threatening.”
While creative agencies have shown a rising interest in creating stellar campaigns for the healthcare industry, transgressions have highlighted the need for greater sensitivity to brands’ reputations. This year, a bronze Lion winning ad for Bayer, created by Brazilian agency AlmapBBDO, was accused of being sexist and ‘scammy’. Bayer distanced itself from the scandal and supported the ad’s withdrawal from the festival, stating the work appeared to have been created solely to win awards for the agency.
So, how can healthcare and pharma brands communicate and engage their audiences without letting creatives go too far for the sake of a prize? Here are three ideas backed by successful Latam campaigns that have been awarded or short-listed for Lions Health.
1. Be a part of people’s lives
Brands that embrace people’s habits and lifestyles can make healthcare issues relevant to even the most disengaged audiences.
‘Nivea Doll’, created by FCB São Paulo is a great example of how this can be done. A doll that sunburns when exposed to UV rays shows kids the effects of using sunscreen in practice – a fun way to engage children. The ad received a Gold Lions Health award last year.
In JWT Brazil’s ‘Superformula to Fight Cancer’, which won silver in 2014, chemotherapy is dressed-up as a ‘superformula’ – a light-hearted way of making it more comprehensible to children – steeped in comic book lore – in need of the treatment.
Brazilian sunscreen brand Sol de Janeiro and Ogilvy São Paulo launched ‘Tattoo Skin Cancer Check’, a campaign to raise awareness of the disease in young adults by training tattoo artists to identify the signs on their clients and recommend they see a specialist. The campaign won a gold Lion last year.
2. Tap into emotional intelligence
Through empathy and humor brands can raise awareness and talkability.
‘Manboobs’, this year’s recipient of the Grand Prix for Good at Lions Health, is a great example of how humour and a different perspective can reach people without transgressing. To avoid social media censorship of bare female breasts, Macma, an Argentinian breast cancer association, used men’s bare chests in a video to teach women how to perform breast self-examinations. ‘Manboobs’ went viral – a recognition of its ability to talk to a serious issue effectively with wit.
In the Brazilian campaign ‘Impossible Hands’, shortlisted this year at Lions Health, pharma lab Roche Neuroscience worked with designers and doctors to develop a glove that stimulates the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. The glove allows healthy people to feel the symptoms of the disease, bringing them closer to its reality, stimulating empathy in a way traditional campaigns couldn’t. This is a notable example of how sharing technological innovation developed to study and understand the conditions of an illness, can also be used to communicate it.
3. Empower people
Brands can develop new tools that give people greater autonomy over their health, and in return strengthen brand equity.
‘Parkinsounds’, a gold winner at this year’s festival, is a campaign for an app developed by Havas Life São Paulo for Teva Neuroscience to help Parkinson’s patients improve their walking by listening to music. Providing a tool that helps patients conquer aspects of their disease through something as pleasant as listening to music shows how embracing everyday habits and technology can lead to innovative approaches to problems that medicine has not yet solved.
‘Intimate Words’, winner of the Lions Health Grand Prix in 2014, is a cervical cancer prevention initiative developed by Always in Mexico directed at local indigenous communities. Having identified that these communities don’t have words for women’s reproductive organs, making it difficult for them to talk about possible concerns, Always worked with linguists and health professionals to create the missing words in their native language. Not only does the campaign promote awareness, it encourages women to manage their health and seek medical support.
The healthcare and pharma industry’s approach to communications is changing quickly and taking into account people’s needs, desires, emotions and cultures. It’s now ok to be bold, witty and innovative as long as you’re also respectful and ethical. Brands that successfully walk this line are paving the way to a new era of communications in their sector.
Health through the Culture Lens is a weekly series exploring important cultural currents in health and pharma
Image Sources: mmm-online.com, the inspiration.com, advertolog.com, dandad.org, canneslionsarchive.com, canneslionsarchive.com, canneslionsarchive.com, inspirationroom.com, Lions Health website
- Article by Carmen Beer