Ogilvy's Michael Johnston on Using the Familiar in Diabetes Ads

The diabetes category is constantly evolving, and that's what makes it interesting. Over the last 20 years, we've seen many advances in treatment, including thiazolidinediones, DPP-4 inhibitors, GLP-1 receptor agonists, and SGLT2 inhibitors.

The science behind these medicines is truly fascinating and underscores how far we've come from the days of purified pork insulin and sulfonylureas. However, a quick look across the advertising landscape shows a mix of creative approaches that remain tied to traditional and familiar executions.

Michael Johnston is VP and associate creative director of copy at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide.

See also: Federal agencies and ad groups join forces for prediabetes campaign

Brand: Jardiance
Company: Boehringer Ingelheim
Agency: Area 23

It's a typical pharma ad with a mild creative twist. Putting the guy's clothes on “ME” communicates treatment that is tailored to meet his most important clinical needs. Why should physicians care? Patient satisfaction. When patients are happy, they stay motivated and they stay on therapy, which gives them the best chance for long-term glycemic control. A relevant story that can be pushed much further.

Brand: Glyxambi
Company: Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim
Agency: Area 23

O.K., the Pixar-esque characters are likeable. The “Glycemic Improvement Service” is fun. And this quickly gets to the point of promoting a fixed-dose combination — a staple of diabetes treatment strategies — that unites the novel and synergistic mechanism of actions of a SGLT2 inhibitor and a DPP-4. But it still feels dated and a little lightweight, which doesn't fit a brand that should be a dynamic heavy hitter.

Brand: Nesina
Company: Takeda Pharmaceuticals

It's a puzzle piece ad. Enough said.

Brand: Trulicity
Company: Eli Lilly
Agency: GSW

The ad is iconic with a direct connection to its simple delivery system. Patient acceptance and satisfaction are also being communicated here — that's key when introducing an injectable into the treatment regimen. Still, it's basically a picture of a patient holding the device. That really doesn't make you stop and look.

Brand: Victoza
Company: Novo Nordisk
Agency: Entrée Health

The “breaking free” creative approach has been done so many times, although I like the story this ad is telling. Victoza takes on a formidable obstacle facing branded diabetes products — the cost of the therapy. With many generic options available, physicians need to understand that drug costs are just part of the total cost of care. When you “go deeper,” as the ad suggests, the cheaper treatment option doesn't necessarily translate into savings in overall diabetes care costs.

Brand: Humulin R
Company: Eli Lilly
Agency: GSW

Again, a typical pharma ad with a mild creative twist. The burden of daily treatment for insulin-resistant patients — who must deal with multiple injections and high drug volumes — is visualized with some drama. Humulin R U-500 is a concentrated insulin that addresses these issues, so that poor woman can finally get out of that syringe.

Brand: Tresiba
Company: Novo Nordisk

Appropriately enough, the last stop on our diabetes tour is insulin. Here is an ad for Tresiba that uses well-worn parachute and open-landscape imagery. Yes, the brand benefit hits you over the head, which is what many physicians want. However, it's clarity without any ownable creativity.