When the subject of creative exploratory comes up, the typical direction from client to agency is to bring back creative based on original ideas, ideas that will set my brand apart, ideas that are “out of the box.”

Rarely does a client demand advertising that’s been done before, that’s “tried and true,” that’s formulaic.

Ok, that’s the set up…

Let’s consider four DTC campaigns. Two truly original and “out of the box.” Two formulaic, and done many times before. All four highly successful, as they ran for years.

The two truly original campaigns first:

Spiriva’s “Elephant” Campaign

The idea traces to a patient at a focus group who explained, “having COPD was like having an elephant sitting on your chest.” The agency grabbed the metaphor and created “Elephant,” a masterstroke on two levels: 1) COPD patients immediately recognized the symbolism, and 2) even if some couldn’t remember Spiriva, they asked about the medicine in elephant commercial.

Lunesta’s “Luna Moth”

The campaign featured a Luna Moth that gently swoops in, calms down the “restless mind,” and delivers a good night’s sleep. Nielsen tracking research found “Luna Moth” was the best recalled DTC TV during the years it ran.

Now, two campaigns based on principles “tried and true,” and done many times before.

Chantix’s “Quitters” Campaign

It featured long-time smokers who managed, finally, to quit using Chantix. Their “testimony” was authentic and compelling, and that the campaign ran for some 10 years is proof it worked.

Restasis Campaign

Next, another testimonial, this time an expert, Dr. Alison Tendler for Restasis, a practicing ophthalmologist, who’s also a Restasis patient. As of this writing, she’s been the face of Restasis for seven years.

The Lesson

Every creative exploratory should attempt to deliver work that’s original and out-of-the-box. The upside can be great! But the odds you’ll get a campaign like Spiriva or Lunesta are not great. They come along every so often. So, protect yourself, and protect your stockholders, by making sure that you’re also considering campaigns based on principles that have worked before, and are likely to work again.

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