3 Reasons Why Design In Healthcare Advertising Is So Challenging

A so-called full-service ad agency offers all core capabilities needed to serve clients in virtually any industry. These capabilities include strategic and tactical planning, design, copywriting, media planning, web programming, and print production. Of these, copywriting and design, in particular, take on added importance and value in healthcare advertising, more so than in any other type of advertising. There are three reasons why design in this specialized field is so challenging.

Number one: Healthcare advertising designers create communications targeting very diverse audiences.

Designing communications targeting sick children is potentially much different from designing communications targeting the doctors who treat them. Different demographics. Different psychographics. Different agendas. And potentially vastly different aesthetics.

Number two: Healthcare advertising designers must be adept in diverse media.

You name it–healthcare ad agency designers create it. From business cards to billboards…pamphlets to websites…white papers to TV spots…whatever the client needs, the designer ensures that its look is both appealing and consistent with the brand image and identity. In all media: online, outdoor, print, and broadcast.

Number three: Healthcare advertising designers must have diverse skills.

How many people do you now who are really good at both art and science? Not many, right? But you’ll find them in the art department at healthcare ad agencies: true left-brain/right-brain individuals who are creative and knowledgeable about clinical matters…who can create effective, visually appealing communications for pharmaceutical and biotechnology products, diagnostics and medical devices, hospitals and advocacy groups. Additionally, these designers must be knowledgeable about FDA guidelines and other regulatory criteria…but also knowledgeable about how people respond to pictographic information…and knowledgeable about how to create the solutions that will compel professionals and consumers to take action.

The diversity that challenges healthcare ad designers is unique: diverse audiences, diverse media, diverse skills. Designers in healthcare advertising face these intense demands more so than designers in any other form of advertising. For these reasons, truly gifted and exemplary healthcare designers are hard to find. In your search for an advertising agency partner, look very closely at each candidate’s design capabilities. You need more than strong advertising design; you need strong healthcare advertising design. Without it, your healthcare brand can never achieve its full potential. So choose wisely. Select a healthcare advertising agency with superb design services. A full-service agency with award-winning design capabilities is bryantBROWN Healthcare. Visit BryantBrown.com. Or call 1-310-406-2460, x101.

Authenticity Rules – A Reality Check For Creative Advertisers

People prefer the genuine and value the real thing as most desirable. Thus, even in advertising, authenticity trumps creativity – a difficult axiom for creative advertisers to follow.

One lovely day in the summer of 2002, I had an in-person business meeting scheduled with an Englishman. He was a new client and I had been advised by a colleague who also rode motorcycles not to reveal myself as a motorcyclist until after a new business relationship had been cemented. Yet, it was a beautiful day and my motorcycle was a 2001 Triumph, made in England. I considered the sunshine and the English connection (if my client noticed that I arrived on a Triumph) an excuse to ride to the appointment.

Pass test in a blink Within minutes of my arrival, the Englishman led me out to the parking lot to show him my motorcycle. When he read the name on the gas tank, he whispered, ‘A Triumph.’ Then, taking on a dubious tone, he turned to me and said, ‘Aah, but was any of it made in England?’

Fortunately, Triumph had placed a tiny Union Jack decal above the taillight. I pointed to it, said yes, and witnessed a change in facial expression that suggested I had just passed a critical test.

That day, made-in-England Triumph delivered on the perception that authenticity equates with value. This is true of much more than motorcycles. Indeed, the perception of authenticity equates with value among informed and uninformed consumers in any market – so much that it often makes deep wells of creativity unnecessary in effective marketing.

Authenticity = value Because the concepts home-made and locally-grown trigger the impulse to buy, a small hand-made sign offering home-made relish made from locally-grown cucumbers helps to sell more hot dogs at a hot dog stand. Likewise, a poster of Shaun Cassidy from 1977 might sell at a garage sale today. The same poster autographed by Shaun Cassidy can fetch a high price on e-bay. These are further examples of how authenticity increases value.

You want the real thing? Authenticity relates to truthful origins. The word comes from the Greek authentikos which means original. An authentic claim is worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact. An authentic product is original or made in the same way as an original – not false or imitation. Other concepts related to authenticity include real, actual, and genuine – all hallmarks of value.

Generally, people avoid substitutes or pay less for them when they can have the real thing. So, in 1969-70, Coke successfully advertised with the slogan, ‘It’s the real thing.’ When you buy a pair of Levi-Strauss jeans, the label declares, ‘This is a genuine pair of Levi’s jeans.’ These companies understand the value/authenticity connection.

Fakers keep out Typically image-conscious teens still use the labels want to-be and poser as insults. Likewise, the perception that a brand merely tries to be what it claims to be turns off consumers of all ages. People are also turned off by far-fetched claims. Below, a claim that Ladysmith, British Columbia has a ‘heavenly’ climate exemplifies this.

Creativity better than honesty? When marketers take the route of simple, truthful authenticity, their markets often reward them with success. Yet, the supreme status of creativity is so deeply ingrained in the ad industry that advertising executives refuse to pay attention – or feel that they can do much better.

Creativity is viewed as so basic a requirement in advertising that people in that line of work seldom mention it, except to promote themselves to other industries. Yet, while creativity that is also original may be lauded, danger arises when creativity is divorced from authenticity. The results from an Association for Consumer Research poll ‘strongly suggest that consumers are deeply skeptical of advertising claims. Moreover, public opinion has remained extraordinarily constant [about this for at least] two decades.’ Thus, public opinion considers creativity insignificant at best when companies and institutions take their messages to market.

For an example of creativity gone too far, consider the climate in Ladysmith, British Columbia. Ladysmith has a mild coastal climate. The summers tend to be sunny and dry; seldom hot. Bringing months of cloud and rain, the spring and autumn typically seem to run together. Despite mild temperatures, the short days and persistent damp gloom of winter lead some residents into depression. Regardless, a brochure promoting condos in Ladysmith claims a ‘heavenly’ climate year-round.

Ignore user experience? One advertising agency that, incidentally, repeatedly wins awards for graphic design, apparently sees no place for actuality in the creative campaigns it develops. It uses a word-association game to generate campaign concepts. Let me explain.

If the client’s business were Mountainside Soapworks, for example, the agency’s staff would work with six columns of words on a whiteboard. At the top of each column would be the words mountain, side, mountainside, soap, works, and soapworks. The creative team brainstorms and lists associated words below these headings.

Under soap they list wash, clean, dirty, water, shower, sink, towel, bathroom, tub, and other words. Beneath works, they list paycheque, commuting, job, labour, boots, dress code, career, breadwinner, and others. The next creative challenge is to join words from the six columns into unlikely combinations. For example, dirty and commuting or water and career would be grouped with words from the other four columns. While the fun and creativity are underway, nobody bothers to consider the distinct benefits of using the client’s products.

Then, all at the creative briefing are challenged to draw creative sketches based on various groups of six words. The most creative sketches become candidates for the campaign concept. This is how a campaign built on a sketch inspired by valley shower boots hill flank suds job could be used to advertise soap.

The process undoubtedly stirs up fun and creativity. What about the actual experience of the product user, though? What consumer needs does this company’s soap address better than the competition’s? What can Mountainside Soapworks say about its products that would have the same appeal as the authenticity of a pair of genuine Levi’s jeans, or the try-me attraction of homemade relish made from local cucumber? Though the fruits of fun creativity might be appealing, when it comes to advertising, people want the truth.

True, genuine, relevant From the smallest players to the largest, the advertising industry trumpets creativity as the key source of value. Creative Director is one of the most respected positions in the field and the phrase creative marketing is often used in the same sentence as solutions or success . John Grant, author of The New Marketing Manifesto, states, ‘Authenticity is the benchmark against which all brands are now judged.’

Overloaded by sales pitches, consumers are gravitating toward brands that they sense are true and genuine. In a December, 2007 issue of Fast Company , Bill Breen writes, ‘To maintain its integrity, a brand must remain true to its values. And yet, to be relevant or cool, a brand must be dynamic.’ A brand’s values – the emotional connection it makes – define its realism in consumers’ minds.

The law of candor In contrast to the empty entertainment and unreal overstatement often used to lure buyers, authentic, credible, easily verified claims are valued like gold. Because the average person simply wants truth in advertising, there are examples of plain truth making market leaders – even when the truth is expressed boldly and frankly. Consider Buckley’s Mixture cough medicine. It tastes awful, it works, and it has held onto its status as one of the top-selling brands in the Canadian market for many years.

The same values that compel people to seek the authentic and shun the fake and vacuous are involved in demanding fairness and accuracy in reporting from the news media as well as truth in advertising. Indeed, there are laws requiring truth in advertising while misleading claims are widely considered the province of the corrupt. The statement, ‘They just make up this stuff’ can paradoxically evoke pride in advertising executives and disgust in consumers.

Listen for it So, how does a company or an institution that has something to promote get to the truth about its products or services and express that truth so that the intended audience responds favourably? By listening for it.

Distill it In my experience as a key-messages consultant, the highest quality testimonials are not those asked for but those spontaneously provided. Accordingly, I coach my clients on how to listen to their clients, staff, and suppliers for the essential key messages, such as where the value comes from. Then, what sources of value distinguish them from competitors. To get that information in the words that the market uses simply requires listening – in most cases, trained listening.

Quote what customers say Listen attentively to enough people over a sufficient period and the truth of consumer experience becomes abundantly clear. Listen all the time and the larger sample size reduces the margin of error. Then, when you know how to distill the market’s sentiments, the result is authentic key messages of far greater value than a thousand word-association games could ever produce. Propagate those key messages to the market in the words that the market speaks and you can really hit the bullseye. No room for hyperbole. Plain facts can win over even the skeptical. Just like the name Triumph and the little Union Jack on my motorcycle.

- Glenn R Harrington, Articulate Consultants Inc.

Resource: John E Calfee, University of Maryland and Debra Jones Ringold, American University: Consumer Skepticism and Advertising Regulation: What Do The Polls Show? Advances in Consumer Research volume 15

Three Amazing Social Media Advertising Campaigns

Social media is now a more powerful advertising tool than ever, with marketing campaigns reaching out to their consumers on an increasingly intimate level of engagement. Social media campaigns in the right hands can become a source of entertainment, a springboard for inspiration and a starting point for reflective thought; here are three of the most successful such campaigns that show real understanding of consumers and what captures their interest.

Burger King Whopper

The Whopper Sacrifice social media campaign may have damaged a few meaningless relationships and caused Facebook to shut the campaign down, citing privacy issues, but it certainly got people engaging with both the brand and Facebook. The fast food giant Burger King offered any Facebook user a free BK Whopper if they deleted 10 of their friends on the social media site, and within just seven days over 233,000 people had been socially ‘sacrificed’ and told that their acquaintance had chosen a delicious grilled beefburger over their friendship. Who knows how far the campaign would have spread if it had not been shut down? In any case, it won numerous marketing awards in 2009.

Water is Life

A popular Twitter hashtag was turned on its head in this thought-provoking campaign. Water is Life launched a campaign they dubbed ‘hashtag killer’, which involved creating a video where people in Haiti read aloud tweets that included the #firstworldproblems hashtag. The hashtag became popular in the UK as people joked about their trivial problems, but the Water is Life video exposed just how trivial they are in the setting of Haiti, where even getting clean water is difficult. Using social media, the organisation managed to spread their message and generate donations too, reaching out to an audience and getting them to think deeply about their lives and those of others.


The ‘Real Beauty’ message that is the focus of Dove’s branding became a thought-provoking piece of art, literally, in the Real Beauty Sketches campaign. A professional FBI sketch artist was enlisted by Dove, who drew two pictures of a number of everyday women. The first was created with the women’s descriptions of themselves, whilst the other was created from descriptions by total strangers, and the results showed that we are our own worst beauty critics. As part of Dove’s goal of redefining real beauty and boosting confidence within everyday people, the 2013 campaign went viral and was hugely successful on YouTube, even winning some of the top awards within the marketing world.

Defining Promotional Products and Advertising Specialties

Promotional products and advertising specialties are items that are used to endorse a product, service or company agenda and can include executive and business gifts, event giveaways, awards and other imprinted or embroidered items such as custom mugs, pens, Koozies, bottled water, paper items such as letterhead and business cards and over 1,000,000 products with your logo.


Promotional and advertising specialties are used to promote products, brands and corporate identity. Promotional merchandise is used globally to promote events, exhibitions and product launches.

Almost anything can be branded with a company’s name or logo and used for promotion. Wearables such as embroidered caps, polo shirts and jackets, screen printed t-shirts are in the largest product category, which makes up more than 30% of the total for promotions and advertising branded product sales.

Other advertising products include small giveaways such as key chains, pens, pencils, Koozies, coolies, coffee mugs, sunglasses and stress relievers. Paper products such as business cards, folders and letterhead are often used for promotional purposes as well.

Brand awareness is the most common use for promotional and advertising specialties. Other uses include lead generation, distributor and dealer marketing programs, new products, safety education, marketing research, employee awards, and non-profit programs.


Most industry manufacturers sell exclusively through promotional products and advertising specialty distributors only. Distributors interface with manufacturers, suppliers, printers and embroiderers and often help end-users design and create artwork to be used on promotional products. Distributors have the ability to supply thousands of products from many manufacturers across the globe. Distributors help the end-user with product selection and make sure the artwork is submitted in the correct format.

Industry manufacturers prefer to sell through distributors and rarely sell to the end-user. Distributors save the end-user money and time by searching for a qualified printer or manufacturer who can produce and ship quality products efficiently and on time. Distributors are experts in selecting branded products that fit the end-users budget, promotional purpose and time frame.

Most qualified distributors prefer to communicate with the end-user via phone or email. The details required to brand products such as art specifications and ink colors make it difficult for distributors to offer the ability to order and pay for products online. Many distributors will offer an option to request for more information or a quote online, but prefer personal contact with the end-user prior to finalizing their custom order.