Prescription for success: How creativity is the secret ingredient in pharma marketing

Sales & Marketing

Can you imagine a world where pharmaceutical marketing was as thrilling as a sloth hosting a speed dating event? Happy us, this boring scenario is not the reality anymore, thanks to the magic of creativity that advertising agencies bring to the pharmaceutical industry.

The pharmaceutical industry as we know it often suffers from a bit of an “identity crisis”. The term "Big Pharma" alone conjures up images of grey suits and endless corridors of paperwork. But a lot of pharma companies have realised the power of imaginative branding, and they've understood that creativity isn't just a buzzword - it's essential to helping their brands succeed.

The Cannes Lions and WARC’s Effectiveness Code clearly showed a strong correlation between creative commitment, market share and profit growth (on a personal note, this study is a must-read for anyone in marketing). Creativity helps marketers gain market share and differentiate themselves in a fierce competitive environment. Creativity is not an end in itself, however; it is a business imperative. And the formula is simple: more creativity means more business success.

Captivating stories and creative messaging is what it’s all about

A pill is just a pill is just a pill – until a creative mind works some storytelling magic on it. The moment an ad goes beyond the clinical details to tell a compelling story, it transcends the ordinary.

Consider Novartis’ heartwarming campaign for Cosentyx. Instead of bombarding viewers with scientific jargon, they told the story of real patients regaining control of their lives. Suddenly, the drug became more than a product; it was a lifeline.

In the sea of sameness that pharmaceutical advertising very often represents, being memorable is no small feat. Creativity comes to the rescue by injecting humour and wit into the message. Think of Allergan's Botox campaign. Instead of the typical sombre approach, they used humour to show that wrinkles don't stand a chance against Botox. Laughter is not only good for the soul, it's also great for brand recall.

The regulator’s dilemma: Finding the balance

Ah, the regulatory dance is a tango where creativity and compliance must move in perfect harmony. Sometimes it can be a big challenge, but one that savvy pharmaceutical companies have mastered. Merck's Keytruda campaign is a prime example. They navigated the regulatory maze while creating a moving story of patients battling cancer. This delicate balance shows that creativity is not a rogue element; it's an essential partner in the pharmaceutical tango.

Putting a face on giants: Humanising pharma

The pharmaceutical giants often appear as faceless entities, but creativity bridges the gap between companies and consumers. This makes the whole industry more human, more understandable, and more “touchable”.

Pfizer's "Science Will Win" campaign is a great testament to this. It portrays scientists behind the scenes, transforming Pfizer from a mystery to a group of passionate human beings working tirelessly to make the world a better place. The campaign has "humanised" this large pharmaceutical company.

Winning hearts and minds

In the pharmaceutical arena, it's not just about selling products (but please don't get me wrong: at the end of the day, it's all about sales - let's not kid ourselves about that); it's also about winning hearts and minds. Creative campaigns don't just inform; they persuade, inspire, and leave a lasting impression.

Another good example is Roche's Hemlibra campaign. It's not just about a product; it's a celebration of life's moments, showing how patients can live more fully. This emotional connection goes beyond marketing; it's about making a difference in people's lives.

Creativity – The pharma industry’s elixir of success

In the healthcare industry, creativity was often undervalued and sometimes even underestimated. For many years, creativity was neither needed nor desired in the healthcare industry. Fortunately, this has been changing for quite some time now.

Creativity is not a luxury good, it's a necessity. Breathing life into brands, crafting compelling stories, infusing humour (where possible), and balancing regulatory requirements - creativity is the vital ingredient that takes pharmaceutical advertising from the ordinary to the great.

It is also important to keep in mind that the examples above are just a few examples in a vast sea of creativity. The pharmaceutical industry’s ongoing narrative is shaped by creativity. And as an advertising agency that works closely and exclusively with healthcare clients, we strongly believe that creativity is key to improving patient outcomes, increasing engagement, and driving innovation in the industry for the benefit of patients, healthcare providers, and the industry as a whole. But also, from a business perspective, as a way to differentiate companies from the competition.

And as advertising legend Leo Burnett once said, "Creative ideas thrive best in a business that retains a sense of fun." In the serious world of healthcare, creativity is the fun that keeps the spirit alive.

Dirk Poschenrieder
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Dirk Poschenrieder
29 September, 2023