By Stephen Neale, Senior Vice President, Executive Creative Director, AbelsonTaylor
Over the years I’ve read many industry articles in which creative directors (and clients) evaluate what they consider to be great work. Not just attractive or interesting, but creative that truly works. What I’ve always wanted to see is how that work came to be. How did the idea begin? How did it grow and develop? Who strategy was involved?
When I was first promoted to a creative leadership position, I was always looking (in vain) for content about how other teams were creating breakthrough work from the ground up, not just what the work looked like at the end.
So I’d like to pull back the curtain a bit on a couple of award-winning campaigns I’ve worked on. With thanks to our clients for allowing us to share the details, I’ll describe what the concepts looked like when they were “born,” how they were nurtured and developed into larger ideas, what was considered, kept or discarded, and how the concepts were eventually propelled into greatness.
TEVA ONCOLOGY FRANCHISE
Teva was starting to expand its presence in oncology when the company approached us with a couple of therapies just being launched or in late-stage development. The company really wanted to make a name for itself in the space, emphasizing its dedication to patients. Of course every pharma company wants to appear patient-centric, but Teva’s growth into a company with a full portfolio of oncology products provided substantive underpinning to the idea of being dedicated to patients. So our campaign goal was to establish that Teva is a company that sees through to the individual person within each cancer patient.
One of the ideas that caught our imagination in the first round of review was to create an anthemic statement from the patient’s perspective—something along the lines of “I can beat cancer”—and build around it. But that seemed a little, well, ordinary. And it wasn’t sufficiently focused on Teva’s goal of treating the individual—we wanted to bring out a connection with real, individual patients. And that brought us to the idea of roles. Cancer patients aren’t just patients, they are fathers and mothers, daughters and sons, sisters and brothers—real people with real names and families and others who care for them. So the question became how do we draw out and emphasize those personal roles in the context of oncology?
The answer, it turned out, had been staring us in the face all along. During one of our discussions, complete with all those long oncology terms, someone in the room noticed that the word mother could be found inside chemotherapy. And that became the foundational idea behind our campaign—finding the individual inside the verbiage of cancer and cancer treatment. So we set a team of copywriters to work finding names and roles within the language of oncology.
What I particularly enjoyed about this was that it became a pure thought exercise in language and creative copywriting. Many marketers, especially in healthcare, tend to think in terms of images first, which isn’t necessarily wrong because images can be far more engaging than words. Images can also be easier to get past regulatory review than words. But marketers can never forget how important language is, which was brought home to us as we turned our minds to the words of oncology and found all sorts of other words and names inside them. That offered Teva a way to communicate that its interest in cancer patients goes beyond their disease, embracing the things in their lives that truly define them, such as their roles as mothers, pops, sisters and sons. It was—it is—a powerful and arresting statement.
But of course the words alone weren’t enough. We needed to find a way to place all this in a visual context that would complement and support it. Most importantly, we didn’t want the backgrounds or the colors or the photography to get in the way of those wonderful headlines. We started out with black and white photographs, but wanted something unique, something that would suggest people who might be going through chemotherapy or rebounding on the way back from aggressive cancer treatment. So that’s why we used soft color pushes in the final campaign images, to suggest that the individuals are returning to full vibrancy. And once the words and images came together, we knew it was right. We sent several ideas to Teva, but as soon as they saw this one they said, “This is it. It’s perfect.”
SYNERON CANDELA ULTRASHAPE BODY CONTOURING
UltraShape is a technology that uses ultrasound energy to non-invasively destroy fat cells in the body. When we first started working with the brand, our basic goal was to communicate how easy it is to get a flat stomach by using UltraShape to get rid of stubborn belly fat. But as our account planners dug deeper into consumer insights, we realized there was more to it than just “easy.” People were willing to work for their dream bodies, in fact many were already killing themselves in the gym. But no matter how many crunches they did, they still couldn’t shed those last few pounds. Simply looking at a magazine rack can illustrate this point: six-pack abs galore, workout routines, diets, 10 steps to a flat tummy. It’s never-ending because no one is achieving it and most of these regimens require a fair amount of commitment, some barely distinguishable from torture. Whereas UltraShape was easy—lay back, relax, do absolutely nothing for an hour, and let the doc melt your belly fat.
For something like this, comparisons can be a particularly powerful communication tool.
Our first idea was a straight comparison—on one side, three visuals of the “fitness pub” path to a flat stomach (crunches mostly), and on the other side, three visuals—before, during, and after—of the UltraShape process. The trouble was that it was too busy to be arresting. It was clever and could get a smile out of the viewer, if the viewer took the time to look at the whole thing. So we needed to find a way for it to be more visually engaging, more quickly.
Then came the idea of creating two separate ads, one a crunch demonstration and one for Ultra-Shape, with the character from the first actually leaving her ad to go look at the UltraShape ad. This, we thought, was both clever and arresting, but it was still a little too complicated and had the major drawback of not being able to work well in multiple media. Having a character move from one ad to another might look great in print, but doing it online or in a mobile setting would be difficult.
A side-by-side comparison still seemed like it could work, but everything we’d done was still too busy, and we wanted the visual to immediately drive home the fundamental insight of how easy UltraShape is. Then, in the course of developing the two-ads model and the research that went with it, we realized something important. Our audience wasn’t just doing crunches, they were doing everything—the workouts, the diets, all of it—to get that flatter stomach. We needed to simplify our message and use the power of every channel at our disposal to communicate our alternative to those extremes.
So we threw out all the “steps” and boiled it down to two remarkably similar images—the woman lying flat about to do crunches, and the woman lying flat about to undergo an UltraShape treatment. Both were shot from overhead, with the tagline, “Get a flatter tummy without flat-out torture.” Simple, arresting, easy to understand. And unlike the previous iteration, this one was perfect for multiple media.
Since the two images were so similar, we were able to create a slider bar that online users could toggle to shift back and forth between crunches and UltraShape.
And we created short videos that compared the ludicrous popular physical routines of the moment—including the Hula Hoop workout and Bikram Yoga in 100-plus-degree temperatures—to the simplicity and ease of UltraShape.
The UltraShape campaign grew web sessions 15 percent, page views 25 percent, and visits to the UltraShape Physician Finder 29 percent
What made this campaign work, I believe, was a combination of simplicity and real sympathy for its audience. We knew that people were going to all sorts of extremes to lose that last bit of belly flab, and that perhaps on some level they knew how extreme their actions were. So the campaign was half a good-natured tease, a little different in each channel, and half an offer of a better pathway to the same result.
SPEAKING OF RESULTS . . .
It bears repeating that the proof of good creative is the success of the campaign it supports. The Teva and UltraShape campaigns were successful because they quickly connected with people on an emotional level, made a memorable impression, were campaignable, and triggered a positive response. The results were good by numeric metrics—the UltraShape campaign grew web sessions 15 percent, page views 25 percent, and visits to the UltraShape Physician Finder 29 percent. And the results were good by subjective measures—the Teva campaign, launched at the annual meeting of The American Society of Clinical Oncologists, received uniformly positive feedback from physicians who attended the exhibit. The effectiveness of the campaign was perhaps best summed up by an oncologist from the Midwest who simply said, “I can never think about chemotherapy the same way again.”
Senior Vice President, Executive Creative Director AbelsonTaylor
Stephen’s philosophy for a great creative campaign is simple—make a human connection. Connecting with customers is a common theme at AbelsonTaylor as Stephen, who leads a group of 90 award-winning creatives, continually encourages and mentors agency teams to push into new creative territory. He is frequently invited to judge awards competitions and occasionally writes articles on creativity for industry publications. Stephen joined AbelsonTaylor as a young designer seeking to make a difference, which he did early in his career with the Hytrin Balloon ad in 1993. The campaign, which used a water-filled red balloon clipped with a clothespin to communicate the feeling of an enlarged prostate, changed the face of medical advertising, lifting creativity out of its sameness and connecting with physicians in a powerful and whole new way. The campaign was inducted into the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame in 2015.
AbelsonTaylor is the largest independent medical agency-of-record in the world. Established in 1981, the company serves pharmaceutical, biotech and health-and-wellness companies, creating award-winning brand experiences in broadcast, print and digital. To learn more, visit abelsontaylor.com and follow the company on Twitter and Facebook.