As regulatory guidelines evolve, every image increasingly lies at risk for being an over-promise or an under-representation.  Can you make it show less emotion? Can it look less extreme? Can you gray her hair?  Fatten him up.  Age that toddler. Make the tumor smaller.  Make the artery larger.  And label what’s going on here.

Still, the key to creative success is balancing the very real demands of regulatory with the ability to break through and make an impact by challenging our comfort zones.

So to break out of the comfort zone and think beyond just designing to fit fair balance – here are a few approaches that show how less can be more.

• Aspirin—Headache lights
Agency: BBDO, Toronto, Canada

It’s like they’ve seen your headache face before, right?  And a bold image, with straightforward copy, and a creative ad unit buy make a breakthrough statement.  (And reminds us of the ability to be clever in outdoor advertising—a medium which can seem off-limits in pharma.)

• Meth Project
Agency: Organic, San Francisco

It’s powerful, right?  The images in this campaign are arresting. And art this powerful seems as if it could only have come from experience.  So kudos to Organic and their agency partners for being brilliant enough to use a “drug consultant” to lend authenticity to the campaign.

• Alzheimer Society—PSA
Agency: Rethink, Toronto, Canada

The Alzheimer Society of British Columbia nails video’s version of less is more.  Scientific, nostalgic and with a hint of melancholy—without any ­voiceover whatsoever.  Effective in its elegance.

• Stivoro—the quitting machine
Agency: Publicis, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Ho-hum, another convenient vice-dispensing machine?  The worldlyiconic image of a device we’ve grown to know so well in discharging cigarettes becomes quite the opposite.  Old problem, new approach.  Someone should pitch a real interactive kiosk taking the same physical shape.

• Panorama—hair loss specialists
Agency: Rethink, Toronto, Canada

Eye level and straight ahead, the optimal placement for most advertisements you see.  Only today, you’ve hopped onto your daily commute and realize you’re the poster child for the follically-challenged. Clever ad placement from above. Here’s looking up to hair loss treatment.

* Breast Health Foundation—Breast cancer awareness print ad
Agency: Volcano, Johannesburg, South Africa

Pull your eyes back over here.  Thanks.  This ad exploits the innate need for man or woman to stare—but using that truth shows how emotional the breast cancer experience can be.  Simple art, with a little font and copy strategy, makes a big statement with six words.

* Carboveg—Stop the gas war
Agency: Leagas Delaney, Milan, Italy

Anti-gas, enough said.

Alfredo Silva is Creative Director at Digitas Health.