No One Likes Healthcare Advertising, But They Could.

Healthcare advertising rarely demonstrates that it knows how to reward customers for their time, or shows what a smart creative idea can do. We need a better approach. Making memorable creative isn’t easy but it is possible in healthcare. There are just certain must haves.

The first must have is obviously a talent for creative. Creative talent is the love child of imagination and a sense of humor. It looks at problems from unusual angles that’s why a smart idea seems so fresh: It is liter-ally “not the usual.”

You can raise this talent for unexpected solutions by studying how others have discovered theirs. For inspiration I always recommend the annuals of Communication Arts and The One Show and the timeless early work of agencies like DDB and Grace Rothchild.

The next must have is a “must do”. You must get over the idea that you’re here to entertain the viewer or reader. No, you’re here to show folks that you know what they’re going through that you feel their pain. That’s empathy and nothing builds trust quicker. Empathy lowers defenses and persuades a customer to believe in you and what you’re offering.

Countless healthcare commercials and social media ads seem to not understand this, and keep clobbering us with solutions that miss the mark by being too clever, over-produced or just not saying the simple, honest things we want to hear.

The last “must” is this: Find the story in what you’re selling. Storytelling is the most motivating sales technology known to advertising. It’s com-pelling in TV commercials, online ads, mobile ads – almost any kind of paid media – because it uses drama, humor and interesting characters to win your heart. As a creator you have the full richness of human emotion to draw on.

You must get over the idea that you’re here to entertain the viewer or reader. No, you’re here to show folks that you know what they’re going through…

The love of stories is primal. We were suckers for it when we were little and we’ve never outgrown it. Think of Flo, the protagonist of Progressive; or Geico’s gecko; or Allstate’s Mayhem. And that’s just insurance. There’s Ben Affleck working for Dunken; the man your man could smell like for Old Spice; the running woman in Apple’s 1984; the Wassup bro’s in the classic Budweiser spot. Probably 90% of the spots you see on the Superbowl are story-driven. Why? Because stories hold your interest and allow you to weave your brand message into the action.

So these are the basics for creating healthcare advertising that everyone could love. It also helps to have a planner whose strategy gives you the freedom to reach for the unusual, and a client whose organization truly understands the marketplace importance of exceptional creative.

I learned the difference a great creative idea can make on my very first try at healthcare advertising. This was in the early 90s. We created the campaign that launched Procrit, a treatment for chemo patients who develop anemia. Aside from winning a shelf of industry awards, this work put Procrit over the top for Johnson&Johnson, winning its prestigious Bellringer Award for exceeding new product sales goals.

  • Bruce Lee
    Bruce Lee

    Chief Creative Officer IPNY

    Bruce Lee is a much-awarded copywriter and creative director. His work raises the game for advertisers both creatively and measurably. After working at major agencies for over 30 years, he co-founded IPNY in 2012.


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