Art is subjective. Two people can view the same image or read the same words and take away two very different messages. That can make a marketer’s job very difficult. Not only do they have to create a campaign—a piece of art in its own right—but they have to do it a way that resonates with their target audience. PM360 asked healthcare marketers what their process is for evaluating a creative campaign. How do you know if an image, message or overall concept is right for the brand? What kind of process do you go through to determine if a concept “works”? And by what standard do you judge your own campaign?


Michael Rutstein

Once upon a time there were no computers. No image banks. Creative people actually came up with original ideas born out of an inherent product truth or “unique selling proposition” that aligned with an unmet target need. Then came Google. And Corbis. And a whole bunch of image banks responsible for stripping away unique thinking and driving the era of “borrowed, borrowed interest.” Why is this a problem? Because it creates a cobbling together effect of message and mirage, without fully leveraging the differentiating aspects of the asset. And that creates a diluted work product and sea of sameness.

We need to get back to basics. And that means building brands from the “bottom up” and revisiting fundamental criteria including:

• Is the creative campaign born out of an insight vs. a functional set of features and benefits?

• Is there an original, campaignable “platform idea” that can be extended vs. a “borrowed, borrowed interest” image and set of claims?

• Is the work truly differentiating vs. the category and pharma at large or are you making excuses and playing it safe?

• Will the target “get it” quickly and remember it?

• Does it inspire action?


And that’s just the beginning. Because today, reps interface differently with doctors, doctors interface differently with information and information alone is not enough. Moving forward, we need to expand the list of evaluative criteria for effective creative to include considerations such as:

• Can the campaign extend across channels, including new media?

• Can the campaign allow for a vertical content play to provide depth and context around specific information areas of interest?

• Can the campaign be “socialized” and shared by intended targets to generate earned reach and frequency?

• Can the campaign effectively stand on its own in the absence of a sales rep?

• Can the platform idea behind the campaign extend to physicians, payers and providers in a way that recognizes the different wants and needs of each audience, while delivering an integrated storyline that reinforces the value proposition?

Guy Mastrion




The things we all should be working towards right out of the starting block: Insight, strategy and execution. To evaluate a campaign you really have to evaluate the insight: Is it the absolute best you can dig out of research into your target? Then this insight must be framed up in a strategic framework that really sets up the challenge the brand can solve. If these things are not the best and furthermore, are not aligned, then the creative will not deliver adequately. Once you are certain you’ve got the first two boxes checked, then you need to take a hard look at the creative work.

The first thing you should ask yourself about the creative: Does it amplify the strategy in a powerful way? Work is often on strategy but is just as often really dull. Dull creative work helps no one. It might be safe and allow you to check the boxes and tell your boss that it all matches up with the data and research, blah, blah, blah…but it is still dull and will not move your audience. Dullness, however, is a relative and subjective metric and this is where we must refer back to the insight in the strategy.

When reviewing work, especially in healthcare, it’s essential to walk in the shoes of your target audience, to really live their mindset. This is what the best creative people do when developing and judging their own work, hopefully before ever showing it to you. Effective creative work is anchored in a surprising relevance, something that hooks your audience and compels them deeper into your brand experience. Any combination of the tricks of the trade can be used to achieve this initial effect: strong visual, copy, layout, interaction, context, etc. It takes experience and skill and sound judgment to make these assessments and to make the creative work effectively.


Christopher Olson




One of the most challenging responsibilities of a brand marketer is to effectively evaluate creative campaigns. The proper evaluation of a creative campaign lies in determining its objective and continually pressure testing the campaign. The genesis of the pressure test should be grounded in whether the competitive advantage comes through clearly and its benefits are both well explicated and early enough for the customer to be persuaded.

My basis for evaluating the concepts, its imageries and product messages are founded in customer research. Instinctively, people tend to make decisions subjectively based on personal feelings, thoughts, attitudes and conventional wisdom. However, one way to remove some of this subjectivity is to evaluate the creative work based on how well it answers the problem it was designed to address. If we constantly reference the research and customer insights throughout the process we’ll be able to measure the campaign’s evolution from the intended audience’s perspective.

Once you’ve answered whether the creative work solves your problem, the next step is to look at the element of style. Is it memorable and distinct? Does it make it easy for the customer to understand the product story? Determine what messages will easily resonate. Keep asking questions and challenging the creative to always ensure you are helping your customer understand additional benefits of the offer that they were previously unaware of. The goal is to have them take action and seek your brand.

Also be conscious of the channel in which the creative is deployed. Digital vehicles require assessment of not just style and messages, but user navigation and experience. Overall, a creative campaign should be founded in product strategy, customer feedback and pressure testing. Finally, marketing is an art form that involves emotional intelligence, human experience and a marketer’s intuition to develop an innovative campaign.


Todd Neuhaus




“It’s not creative if it doesn’t sell.”

Those immortal words from the advertising icon, David Ogilvy, serve as a creative benchmark for us at Calcium. Sometimes—in the solipsistic world that is creative development—we can forget that brand growth and market success are the ultimate advertising endpoints. After all, while industry awards and accolades may be good for an agency’s collective ego, they are not what typically satisfy clients or fatten the bottom line. Instead, one could argue that “creative for creative’s sake” misses the mark if the work does not translate into sales growth. As the old client adage goes, “I know half my advertising dollars are wasted, I just don’t know which half.”

Moving product and expanding market share and dominance is what “creative” selling is all about. And in the end, that’s the business of advertising: selling clients’ brands and services. And that’s why at Calcium we track product market share pre-launch and post-launch for a new campaign.

This emphasis on selling, however, is not the sole criterion for judging effective creative. At our shop we have an acronym called RUMM, which stands for Relevant, Unexpected, Memorable and Motivating. We use the RUMM criteria to evaluate the strength of any given creative concept or communication. In short, RUMM allows us to nail the strategy while ensuring that the work will break through the ever-increasing clutter of an over-communicated pharmaceutical market.

So the next time you see an ad or visual aid or website that piques your interest, ask yourself if it meets the RUMM criteria. Chances are, if it captured your attention it was either relevant or unexpected. However, the more exacting standards will be its memorability—but even more importantly, its motivation for you to take action!


Joan Rogers

Creative can be subjective. One of the most important steps in the evaluation process is testing a creative campaign with your target market. Market research can help determine how effectively your campaign supports your message by gathering feedback directly from your customer. It’s important to ensure that not only does your campaign communicate the message in a quick and impactful way, but also that the message is relevant to your audience and solves the problem or meets their needs. Creative must be unique to differentiate your campaign from others—and most important—so that it resonates with them. Visuals and design should demonstrate stopping power, grabbing the attention of your audience and drawing them in for more. And in the pharma industry especially, messaging should always be true and accurate.

How a [product] brand is being positioned within a campaign is also critical and is an essential step in evaluating creative because the brand is the essence of what our stakeholders perceive and what they can expect from the brand promise. As brand messaging evolves, creative should be able to support and evolve with the brand.

Message impact and message delivery are two of the most important aspects of a campaign. Today, consumers are exposed to campaigns across a wide variety of channels and audiences. This type of integration and overlap is very different from even just 10 years ago when marketing campaigns were channel specific. As a result of this shift, it is critical that a campaign is impactful and measurable across more than the “core” channels and that those messages align and harmonize to tell the brand’s/campaign’s story. How technology will deliver these messages is also important. The technology itself should never be the story—it’s the vehicle for communicating the message.


Hans Wernke




We feel strongly that we need to be closely coordinated with all the stakeholders throughout the entire process. While we are the creative team, we can’t succeed if we work in a vacuum. Ideally, this means that we not only engage all the key players on the client side from day one (including legal and regulatory), but also bring in members of the target audience as early as possible in the process. If we develop a concept for a specific HCP audience, wouldn’t it be great if we could have some KOLs review our work in progress and say: “Yes, I feel that the way you aim to educate me and my colleagues around your MOA is appropriate and effective” or “I see where you are going with this, but it will not work unless you make the following changes.”

The end product is always the result of an iterative process. It starts with an analysis of the campaign objectives, set off against key considerations such as product type (device, diagnostic, biopharmaceutical); delivery (injectable, oral, etc.); indication; key target audience; typical patient profile; the setting in which it will be presented; brand character and, of course, branding guidelines. From there, we work our way step by step through all the phases of creative development: Visual studies, style framing, script development, storyboarding, etc., all the while making sure that we are closely aligned with all stakeholders.

Ultimately, the way we evaluate if we were successful is by going back to the campaign objective: “What was the desired outcome?” Were we trying to generate brand awareness among specific audience segments, improve HCP understanding of key brand differentiators, get HCPs re-energized around a mature brand? Then, what were the metrics? By which standards did we agree to measure the success of the campaign?


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