A cheeky wink at birth control. A hyper-cheery ad for depression. An animated musical extravaganza about … a cough? This work takes risks. And it pays off big time. Collectively, these campaigns deliver the unexpected in a way that is both intriguing and memorable because they abandon the tropes we’ve come to expect. And, in one case, even solve a problem that’s been hiding in plain sight (in the pharma industry, no less). Campaigns like these are a welcome reminder that even the most rote assignment — “let’s do something with patient quotes” — can be the springboard for something that borders on magical.

You Make The Rules

A throwback campaign that feels fresh, relevant and sharp? Meet Phexxi. Headlined by a slyly written and impeccably art-directed spot called Welcome to My Vagina, Phexxi’s new campaign has completely disrupted the birth control market — and audience expectations. It achieves the unthinkable: It leaves audiences begging for a second (and even third) viewing to find all the hidden, delightful nods to the, er, vagina.

Wear a Mask
American Hospital Association

Now more than ever, it’s refreshing to see a COVID-related video that doesn’t include the phrase “now more than ever.” For its Wear a Mask campaign, the American Hospital Association departed from the formula: There’s no sad piano music, no overly emotional voiceover, no big-budget polish. Instead, the AHA took a simple object that telegraphs COVID-19 and transformed it, over and over, into a truly positive message.

Mom Genes Fight PPD
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

It’s kitschy, it’s colorful and it’s got uplifting music — in short, it’s nothing you’d expect from a depression ad. But beneath the bubblegum-pink veneer, darkness lurks in the form of postpartum depression (PPD) — much as it hides beneath the smile of a new mom who suffers from PPD. As the story unfolds, we’re let into the mother’s world via song lyrics that are increasingly discordant with the upbeat melody. The end result is a tangible feeling of despair and isolation.

A Thousand Words: Isolation

The patient quote is an oft-mined source of inspiration for campaigns everywhere, but it’s never been deployed quite like this. In Isolation, an animated heroine representing a patient with NTM (nontuberculous mycobacterial) lung disease regales us with a full-throttle musical number, complete with singing teapots and candlesticks. The video is part of a campaign that uses one-of-a-kind artwork and animations to help patients share their one-of-a-kind stories.

The Prescription Paper Pill Bottle
Tikkun Olam Makers: TOM

Is it a campaign or is it package design? Both. The Prescription Paper Pill Bottle brings us an inventive way to reduce plastic in the pharma industry, and therefore the world — billing itself as “the first prescription bottle that’s truly Earth friendly.” It’s a radical, disruptive solution that comes complete with a downloadable build kit and provocative posters to generate awareness.