As noted elsewhere in this feature, pharma marketers are producing plenty of exceptional creative work in the DTC realm. 

See also: The Top 10 DTC Ads of 2016

There are also plenty that prompt quick checks to make sure that one hasn’t inadvertently clicked over to The Onion. In any event, here are the DTC ads from 2016 that fall into the latter category, in no particular order. 

Novo Nordisk/Victoza: Goal 

Everything about this screams, “We’re not trying very hard.” The doctor looks as if he graduated from generic doctor finishing school. The tablet shown to the patient contains little information beyond “Victoza good, old medication bad,” while a research computer depicting the stomach, liver, and pancreas suggests a child’s drawing of a map of the continents.

The music and settings are generic. Then there’s the voice-over that warns “do not take Victoza if you are allergic to Victoza or any of its ingredients.” That should be self-evident.

Sanofi/Toujeo: Daily Groove 

The pre-Toujeo guy, for no apparent reason, misses the pan by five feet while trying to pour olive oil into it.

But the post-Toujeo guy? He boogies while typing, mowing, and apple picking. The ad does him no favors by letting him prance away during the risk information recitation, but still: Leaving viewers wanting to punch your actor isn’t a good idea.

Celgene/Otezla: Fearless 

This spot was similarly criticized by the OPDP and is similarly grating. A handful of patients are shown in a range of YOLO scenarios to strains of “Walking on Sunshine.”

But it isn’t the music that torpedoes the clip. No, it’s the scenarios themselves and the hammy reactions that ensue. Let’s say your dog bolts on you during a walk. Is your first response to take an all-smiles selfie? No, it’s to give Fido a stern talking-to. The actors appear less euphoric about their diminished symptoms than dazed by the assignment.

(Editor’s note: this ad has been taken down.) 

Pfizer/Prevnar 13: Scary 

We open on an athletic-looking chap snapping up safety gear in advance of zip-lining to the other side of the mountain. This isn’t scary, he says, but then our brave zip-liner opens his mouth and strikes what seems to be a serious pose: “What is scary: pneumococcal pneumonia.”

Then about two-thirds of the way along, our protagonist morphs into a younger female riding a motorcycle with a sidecar. Huh? Narrative coherence is a lost art.

AbbVie/Humira: Teacher 

This one lost me during the first sentence uttered by the protagonist, in which he references his “moderate to severe Crohn’s disease.”

I get that marketers have to be super-specific, but once somebody starts talking like a drug insert, that somebody loses the relatability so crucial to the appeal that it is hoped will soon follow. In this case, it almost doesn’t matter, thanks to the presence of some type of ghost teacher who trails the actual one throughout the clip.

The real teacher strides confidently through the library, while ghost teacher takes a seat, clutches his stomach, and grimaces. Add in how the ad hits the “many achieved remission” note super-hard — it randomly appears on a hallway wall — and the overall effect is both robotic and awkward.