It can be hard to keep an edge in healthcare. We’re oh so sensitive about upsetting and offending and being squeamish about health. Playing it safe is so much easier. But it’s way less fun. I would also argue that it’s way less likely to make a difference, whether you’re looking to drive disease awareness, customer engagement or brand sales. To be sure, there are many disease states and products where pushing this far would be entirely inappropriate. But let’s not use that as an excuse. Explore boundaries. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You might upset a few people but you could win over many more.
• Halloween Treats Gone Wrong
Agency: Publicis Kaplan Thaler, New York
Here’s a toothpaste ad with teeth. Kids are asked to try out healthy sugar-free Halloween treats and their reactions are priceless. Even to this grown-up the nori pops look repellent. Spoiler alert: There is live action throw-up at 00:52 and trust me, that kid ain’t faking.
Agency: McCann Health, China
Sure to elicit gasps of delighted horror, this beautifully executed print campaign pushes us to the very edge of squeamishness. I never thought I’d say this, but poop, I’m rooting for you.
• Stupid Cancer
Agency: CDM, New York
Stupid Cancer provides a platform, both live and virtual, for young adults living with cancer to vent, connect and get busy living. This breakthrough print campaign is pity-free and cool as they come, encouraging cancer patients to join “the sickest party in town.” The imagery is authentic, the copy edgy, the message clear—this organization “gets” cancer.
• Play With Yourself
Agency: M&C Saatchi, Sydney
Australian men are 21% more likely to get testicular cancer than the world average, yet most men there still don’t check themselves. In an inspired collaboration, Blue Ball Foundation and Digital Playground placed a testicular-cancer-check bang in the middle of the action during “Game of Balls,” a Game of Thrones parody available on adult entertainment sites. Based on the sound marketing principle of going where your customers are, it has driven over 200,000 visits to playwithyourself.org to date.
Agency: Langland, Windsor
STDs are reaching epidemic proportions in the UK but people are embarrassed to get checked out at a clinic. What’s more embarrassing—being sniffed out by the sexually transmitted infection unit’s dogs in public? Supported by rich social-media engagement, this mockumentary hooks you right until the punch line—it’s better to check your privates in private with a home STI test.