How do you do great work in diseases no one’s heard of?

Orphan medicine is one of our industry’s brightest hopes. The science is mind-blowing, the clients are risk-taking, and the rewards are incalculable. But in this rare space, every interaction can make or break a brand—and all of us working on these products need to be more engaged, empathetic, and creative than ever before.

Orphan medicine is anything but me-too. But is the work?

Benefix—3000 IU is Here
Client: Pfizer

Execution means everything in the orphan space. Because of social media and the tight-knit nature of these communities, people with rare conditions recognize each other in ads—and talk about their photoshoot experiences—providing word-of-mouth energy to orphan brands. While this ad has a succinct message, its message could be even more powerful—and empathetic—if photography portrayed a real patient.

Velcade—Survival Never Gets Old
Client: Takeda Millennium

People facing rare, life-threatening conditions are smart, savvy, and educated. Their lives depend on it. That’s why I like this Velcade ad. It explains the trial outcome in health literate language, defining the brand’s survival benefits simply and elegantly. This hopeful concept—supported by the facts this patient group wants and needs—shows how the work we do can be helpful, thoughtful, and yes, even promotional, all at the same time.

Ampyra—Keep Walking in Mind
Client: Acorda Therapeutics

Even in more well-known orphan conditions like MS, brands must constantly work to position themselves—and how the diseases they treat are perceived, diagnosed, and evaluated. This ad literally kicks neurologists in the head (and brain) by working to change how this physician group evaluates efficacy in MS, while simultaneously promoting the Ampyra brand.

Xifaxan—Out of the Woods
Client: Salix

I admit: I’ve written some see-say copy in my day, too. But copy aside, this art director is clearly influenced by photographer Gregory Crewdson—and the menace is palpable. The roots and branches nicely reflect the threat (and physiology) of hepatic encephalopathy, while the dark mood telegraphs the nightmarish psychiatric effects of this rare condition.

Have You Seen Maroteaux-Lamy?
Client: Biomarin

We all love to have the answers.  But when we don’t, something magical happens and a simple question can have one hell of an effect.  You probably haven’t seen Maroteaux-Lamy, but after gazing into those shifty eyes and reading the exotic French-sounding name, YOU WANT TO. It’s made a lot of physicians want to as well. This ad connects to the desire in all of us to see the unseen, the interesting, and thanks to orphan medicine—the increasingly treatable.

Mike Hodgson is Partner, Chief Creative Officer at Cambridge BioMarketing