Larry Dobrow on the Worst DTC ads of 2015

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From a creative perspective, it's been a solid year for pharma DTC advertising. It took a decade or so, but we finally shamed pharma ad makers into abandoning their most cherished stand-by: Hale people with complete sets of teeth and exquisitely sculpted cheekbones frolicking on a sun-kissed beach, dressed head-to-toe in white linen in anticipation of an imminent horseback-riding excursion. Until we started pointing and mocking, that was how the advertising community chose to depict, like, life with vertiginous tuberculosic narcolepsy. Nice work, us!

See also: DTC Report 2016: Gut Check

Alas, one side effect (pun super-deliberately intended) of prompting pharma creatives to come up with new go-to visuals is that, well, not every idea or execution is a keeper. To that end, here are five ads from the last year or so that irked, saddened, or otherwise confused the dickens out of us.

- Larry Dobrow, MM&M's senior editor

Stelara: “Seasons”

I don't know from past winners of “America's Next Top Model.” My TV tastes trend towards attempting to talk my four-year-old off the chandelier while some or other show I'd likely love plays idly in the background. But the modeling motif here — not the worst idea for a product aimed at psoriasis sufferers, I'll admit — is undercut by the unintentionally hammy portrayal of an all-four-seasons photo shoot. What's the Eiffel Tower doing in the backdrop of the spring segment? Couldn't somebody have dummied up a more realistic faux fashion magazine (headlines on the cover of This Season include “Style & More Style” and “The Looks of the Season”)? So many questions. (unbranded): “Envy”

Those who delight in the subtlety of metaphors will positively bask in the afterglow of this one, which attempts to paint opioid-induced constipation with the lightest of brushes. Our poor clogged protagonist finds himself stuck amid a crowd of pedestrians. He encounters a snail, a concerned-looking pup, and a store that, improbably, touts the availability of prune juice. Meanwhile, no human being in the course of recorded history — no eight-figure lottery winner, no just engaged couple, no Derek Jeter — has ever been as happy and self-satisfied as the dude who emerges from the coffee-house restroom in the ad's opening sequence. Check out that go-getter smile and unapologetic pants hitch. Acting!

Lyrica: “Coach”

This Lyrica spot, aimed at fibromyalgia patients, appears to have been edited by somebody with some truly avant-garde theories about narrative continuity. We open up on a shot of a woman whose condition prevents her from coaching her kid's softball team — we know this because she shoots a forlorn look at a big old pile of equipment, including a shirt adorned with the word “Coach” in easy-to-view lettering. But enough about her — there's a kid with a snorkel who's pissed at his mom because she can't/won't play with him. So woman number two tells us about fibromyalgia, but then we cut back to the coach — who now, praise Lyrica, is able to guide the team and draw things on what somebody who has never watched a baseball game might describe as a “baseball clipboard.” And now we're on the beach with afflicted mom and sad kid, who team up with dad and big sister to visit a resort that offers snorkeling, or at least the green-screen depiction thereof. Whuh?

Farxiga: “All Walks of Life”

Judging by this ad, life with type 2 diabetes is a total blast. Check out all these happy people — they're happy lakeside, on the beach, while driving in convertibles (wheeeeee!), during impromptu kitchen gigglefests, and even as they relax (and, in one instance, perform a lively jig) during a rare down moment at their construction jobs. There is no place on earth, not even at an Olive Garden in North Korea, where a person afflicted with type 2 diabetes can't have him or herself a fine time. But wait, that's not the point here — it's that people young and old, black and white, tall and short, pro-crouton and anti-crouton, etc., are all affected by diabetes. I think? Meanwhile, somebody needs to sit down with whoever's handling the licensing of Dire Straits' “Walk of Life,” which has now appeared in 1,725 ads and movie trailers. You're allowed to say no, people.

Myrbetriq: “Bowling”

You know what's a really odd time to have a personal health epiphany? While perched at the top of a bowling lane, ball in hand. And yet that's the precise moment when the protagonist of this Myrbetriq spot decides that she's ready to talk to a doctor about her overactive bladder. We know this because she says, out loud and to nobody in particular, “It's time to talk to the doctor.” Then she rolls a seven, leaving herself an easy pickup of a 4-5-7 split. Or maybe that's the point, to equate the ease of picking up a 4-5-7 split with the ease of getting treatment for OAB? I tend to overthink these things. In any event, the little red critter that keeps pulling the protagonist away from her beloved bowling cronies way too closely resembles one of M&M's spokescandies. Gentlemen, start your lawyers.

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