Private View: Letting the Words Tell the Story

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The saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words.” But sometimes a handful of words can be worth ten thousand pictures. Whether serious or humorous, the right “line” can stand alone, transcend the need for an accompanying visual, and become iconic in its own right.

However, finding the right line is quite possibly the most difficult creative task in ­pharmaceutical marketing. While a host of visual metaphors survive testing and legal scrutiny, so many good lines die on the vine due to their objective-versus-subjective nature.

Words, with their recorded and agreed-upon definitions, are the constant underdog—but that doesn't mean we should give up on them. When I come across a fresh, copy-based campaign in concept or in print, I utter a barely audible “Yes!” and applaud the creative team who brought (mostly) just their words to the table or fought to keep them alive.

• Avigra
bcg2 Health, Auckland, New Zealand

“Going generic.” Those are fighting words for any pharma brand. So launch your own generic with a whole slew of clever, entertaining ways to sell it without seeing it.

• Dermodex Prevent
Fisher & Friends, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Not all advertisements directed at moms need to be chock-full of babies. This awareness campaign brings a series of symptoms together with their conditions, begging mom to be thorough when she sees the pediatrician, using just two powerful words.

• Zyban
AMO Communications, Mumbai, India

It doesn't get much simpler than this. This ad was part of a series that used very minimalist wordplay to position ZYBAN as just what smokers need to take a “promising” step toward cessation.

• Noraver
Sancho BBDO, Bogota, Colombia

There's no way you are going to skip this. It's short, not so sweet, and provocative. It's funny enough that you'll read every iteration you come across—which leads to recall and ultimately, trial. Will they get some letters from the animal rights activists? Probably.

• Dolex Gripa
REP/GREY Worldwide, Bogota, Colombia

Emotions can be written all over your face, and so can the flu. Nasal congestion is having an obvious effect on this fellow—although his hair seems a little too perfect, and his shirt a little too pressed, for someone in his condition.

• Easyhaler
Langland, Windsor, UK

Yes, there's a photo here. But the line certainly steals the show. You'd “get it” with just the logo and nothing else.

So, love your visual metaphors, but don't stop championing your words.


Dana Callow is VP, Creative Director at Scout Marketing, Chicago.
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