There are a lot of ways to portray pain. Nearly every metaphor gets a workout when describing the consequences of illness and injury. Thankfully, we continue to evolve from the obvious to add more insight around the personal experiences of pain that include the impact and burden to daily life.

We’ve found more sophisticated and provocative ways to visualize the struggles while retaining a visceral quality. It’s that kind of clever commiseration and empathy — sincere, smart, and sometimes even humorous — that insinuates the therapeutic benefits and builds an instant bond between the brand and the customer.

Angelina Sciolla is VP and associate creative director at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide

Campaign: Dryness Hurts

Company: Alcon
Agency: 2e Creative

The dry eye market is getting bigger and noisier, so it’s important even for an established brand such as Genteal to stand out. Smart choice, then, to avoid the eye as an image and employ a novel and efficient metaphor that reflects the real discomfort of dry eye and the anxiety associated with attempting to get it under control.

Campaign: Overwhelmed
Company: Allergan and Ironwood 
Agency: FCB Health

In this TV spot for Linzess, we see someone who is plainly “weighed down” by both symptoms and the skeletons of failed treatments. There’s humor, truth, and empathy in the image of the patient lumbering along in a bloated landfill of frustration as a result of constipation.

Campaign: What Nagging Knuckles?
Company: Pfizer
Agency: Grey

Here’s an ad that uses freedom from pain as a way to dial up the pain. Hands are often the territory of arthritis, so the idea of performing a chin-up is excruciating. Along with the copy, the image of the man’s two hands wrapped tightly around the bar creates a subtle discomfort and showcases the brand benefits to an audience who may fear losing the ability to get a grip on the most routine tasks.

Campaign: Very Very Awful
Company: TherapeuticsMD
Agency: H4B Catapult

An awareness ad for vaginal atrophy that gets to the point in a way that is quite visceral and memorable. Unburdened by subtlety, this visualization of a physically and emotionally painful condition is, in its own way, a relief because many women’s health issues that are avoided in polite company end up being cosmeticized by softly lit models of a certain age in stylish pajamas.

Campaign: Chest Congestion and Cold Symptom Relief
Company: Pfizer
Agency: J. Walter Thompson

Every little movement is exacerbated by a cold. We know this — especially if there are children in the house. We can relive that moment of aggravation and suffocation when watching this Tylenol commercial. The ad tells the story the same way we’ve told it every time we’ve struggled with serious congestion: “It feels like somebody is sitting on me.” There you have it.

Campaign: Migraine Experience: Elisabeth

Company: Excedrin
Agency: DDB Remedy

Nothing slick or clever in this Clio-winning spot that documents migraine pain. With the help of augmented reality, a mother endures the visual disturbances and anguish of her daughter’s migraine. By recreating pain, the brand projects authenticity and compassion while asserting efficacy and leadership in the treatment of a condition that is sometimes misunderstood.