Thursday, April 27, 2017

Display Ads Related to Health

The Lets Get Physical billboard ad by Miami Dade County highlights two overweight women who are active together to the target market of older women. The apparent value proposition is that if you are active you will be happier and more engaged. It engages the user via women who clearly are well connected and happy. The ads call to action is  exercise 30 minutes per day or visit the website and is expected to "make health happen" for the respondent. I feel the objective in terms of hits to the website was measurable and attainable. Actually getting folks to excercise 30 minutes per day is not measurable and is unlikely to be effected.


The Gastric Sleeve billboard ad by Jackson Health highlights an overweight women who has a neutral expression (e.g, she doesn't look miserable) to the target market of younger women. The apparent value proposition is that if you surgery and you are overweight/obese you will get healthy. It engages the user via bright colors including her blouse and a green faded background and a perky blue color. The ads call to action is to visit the website to learn more thus "can help". I feel the objective in terms of hits to the website was measurable and attainable. I don't know that driving down the highway is the most opportune time to get someone to remember and hit a website however. So although attainable I doubt it will be all that effective


The Butts Are Gross ad from an anti-smoking billboard campaign in Illinois highlights a pretty ugly cigarette butt alongside the rear end of animals to the target market of young children [due to the the childish nature of the ad and the text]. The apparent value proposition is that if you don't smoke you won't look gross (and thus if you do you will). It engages the user via huge text, atypical images of animals and a big ugly cigarette butt. The ads implied call to action is don't smoke. I feel the objective is both not measurable except via focus groups (and even then would have a lot of biases). Nor do I feel it is attainable since it is really just a variation on "don't do it" and I don't know that children pay a lot of attention to billboards.



PETA's Save the Whales billboard ad highlights an overweight cartoon of woman on the beach to the target market of folks who eat too much, especially meat (given the "Go Vegetarian" text). The apparent value proposition is that if you change your diet to vegetarian you won't be fat. It engages the user via huge text, a clearly overweight female image, a common theme that generates compassion ("Save the Whales") and a play on the use of  the word "whale" which in this case refers to overweight women. It also uses the word blubber, also typically associated with whales to make the obesity seem disgusting. The ads call to action is to eat vegetarian (in keeping with PETA's core value). I feel the objective is both not measurable except via focus groups. More importantly shaming as a strategy to get people to lose weight, much less change their diet specifically to a vegetarian one has no evidence of success and more importantly defies logic. If anything this will generate PR for PETA because it is so insensitive; in a sense that is probably their goal and really has nothing to do with obesity or actually becoming vegetarian. Most likely the goal is to generate PR that leads to donations from folks who support PETA when the audience expresses disgust with the ad. My guess is even that ploy will fail as being mean to people and demeaning them is rarely a successful strategy.



The Health Watchers billboard ad highlights attractive food to an audience of hungry people. The apparent value proposition is that if you eat their food you will be more healthy. It engages the user via green text and images and a atypical sandwich type meal with healthy looking ingredients. It offs a nice contrast to typical fast food images. The ads call to action is eat their food and/or call a tiny number at the bottom. I feel the objective of eating their would be difficult to measure unless this is the only campaign or offer running at the same time (which seems unlikely). Measuring phone calls would be easier since that phone number could specifically to used for just this ad. Depending on the competition the outcome could be attainable. For example if most other food choices were unhealthy then this would stand out.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Magazine Ads related to Heath

As a followup I thought it would be helpful to look at how pharma and pro-health organizations used print ads to market as well as pro-heath ad not from pharma. Some might argue that print is dead, especially among young people/millennials, but the demographic of pill takers is older folks.

I am going to start with Zoloft since they get credit for one of the best ad campaigns ever. Here is what they did with print. The ad uses the format of a cartoon to highlight anti-depression features of the product to a target market of depressed mothers of young children ("mommy..."). The apparent value proposition is it can turn you from being "no fun" to being able to have fun again. We also are told that it has helped millions of people with depression. It engages the user via a cute cartoon (in keeping the cute bubble theme) with dialog between cute bubble as mom and cute bubble as doctor. There are other bubbles for the grocery check out person and the dad. The emotional response is one of teary eyed "isn't that wonderful, this brings the family together" sentiment. The ad's call to action is to follow her lead and 1) decide to get help, 2) go to the web and learn about zoloft, 3) ask a doctor about it, 4) take it. That is expected to yield depression relief benefit to the respondent. I feel the objective was measurable in terms of increased prescriptions and potentially attainable. I say potentially because is it harder to appeal to emotion with text only and the static bubbles are not nearly as cute without movement or voice over. It is worth noting that the text that describes the side effects and high risk of suicide in children is harder to read than the the cartoon text.

Charak Pharma highlights laxative features of the natural laxative product to a target market of someone with constipation. The apparent value proposition is that it will enable a bowel movement, It engages the user via a clear and somewhat crass [yet quite funny] message "why take s___ from anyone when you can make your own?" The ad's call to action is to take the pill relieve constipation and is expected to yield relief to the respondent. I feel the objective would be relatively hard to measure precisely since this product is "natural" and thus not by prescription. However I think it would work. The ad is unique and different. Most of us know the constipation ad with the lady who looks uncomfortable. But other than that treatments for constipation are not well known.

The ad from the Canadian Cancer Society highlights cancer causing features of tobacco product to a target market of young people who might be drawn into the use of flavoring (in this case tangerine).
The apparent value proposition is you can avoid cancer if you avoid flavored tobacco. It engages the user via a weird color spotch over a picture of the liver. The ad's call to action is to avoid flavored tobacco but how, when or where is not specified. It is not clear if the desired impact is to have people never start or to quit if they already started. I doubt it had much impact since young folks don't worry too much about cancer (and statistically it isn't a risk in their near future). And the splotch over the liver doesn't convey "don't do this" to me. I doubt it will decrease cancer much less get folks to quit or not start.

The Lipitor ad highlights lowering cholesterol features of the product to a target market of healthy adults (the woman is pretty, young and swimming). The apparent value proposition is that this drug can lower your cholesterol. It engages the user via a big question "Are you kidding yourself" and a healthy looking and active young woman; the intent is to instill doubt. The ads call to action is to talk to your doctor about risk (of heart disease?) and about Lipitor and is expected to yield benefit to the respondent in the form of a lower cholesterol level. Measuring prescriptions should be possible. I personally don't find the woman's challenge to be all that effective. There are multiple answer: 1) yes, and that's my choice to kid myself or 2) no, I know the risks and don't care

The ad from the Lung Cancer foundation highlights how cigarettes kill yourself or other people to a target market of smokers, other smokers, or people who are effected by and can influence smokers.
The apparent value proposition is that if you cut out cigarettes you decrease the lethal effects of smoking. It engages the user via a simple message with emotionally charged single words (suicide and homicide). The ad's call to action isn't stated but is clearly to stop smoking or stop someone from smoking both for them and for yourself to keep them and you from dying prematurely. I feel the objective would be hard to measure since quit attempts aren't public and long term impact is difficult to measure. The goal of getting someone to quit smoking is attainable but mostly by the motivated or by people willing to listened to the pleas of others. Unfortunately that population has already quit. Those left smoking are likely to not be in that category.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Newsprint Ads Related to Health

About the only people who still read newspapers are the elderly so it is not a surprise that ads in newspapers almost exclusively focus on topics of interest to the elderly. Here is a review of some ads in newspapers

Thew NY State Nurses Association ad  highlights the health support features of Medicaid to a target market of elderly. The apparent value proposition is that if changes to Medicaid are resisted these benefits will remain; if not they will go away. It engages the user via a small healthy child and teddy bear and text based please to support the needs of children, the elderly and the disabled. The ads call to action is probably related to voting or contacting a politician since both are done frequently by the elderly or to check out a website and is expected to yield the benefit of no change to health services for the respondent. I believe the ad targets the elderly because almost all Medicaid funds primarily help the elderly with home care and nursing home costs. I feel the objective was not really measurable nor attainable. Highlighting value to children of the poor and the disabled ads emotional appeal but these are not large voting blocks and ignore the more clear value of Medicaid to the elderly, support for them when they become ill or infirm.

The Generation Solutions newspaper ad highlights ability of the home health care service to help the elderly with improving "gait speed" to a target market of professional caregivers and primary care providers. The apparent value proposition is that the services will confer a lower risk of mortality to the patients of the market by addressing gait limitations. It engages the user via a frail looking elderly woman (whose life will not end prematurely) and non-emotional data/results related to a study. The ads call to action is to contact the agency and is expected to yield the benefit to the respondent that a patient's gait speed is improved. I feel the objective was measurable in terms of increased calls although not especially attainable unless this ad was in a newspaper only seen by health care providers (which is possible). It would be more effective as an ad targeting family caregivers which had less data and said "talk to your loved one's physician about gait - it could help her recover and avoid a repeat fall".

The Carolina Select Home Care newspaper ad highlights the quality of their agency to a target market of the elderly with a physical condition and certified nurse assistants. The apparent value proposition is the elderly will receive high quality care and the nurse assistant will work in a better facility. It engages the user via a picture of a healthy and smiling older person with the assumption that their service achieves such an outcome. The ads call to action is to call a phone number and is expected to yield the benefit of learning about an environment that is good for the elderly person or a nice place to work. I feel the objective was measurable by following call rates after placement of the ad and quite attainable. The one limitation is the ad has two targets. It seems more logical to run two different ads with a more clear focus and see which one is more effective.

The Renew Home Healthcare newspaper ad highlights the comfort and zero cost of their agency to a target market of the elderly with a physical condition. The apparent value proposition is the elderly person will receive more comfort and achieve higher independence if they use their services. It engages the user via a picture tidy home and friendly young home health care person, further supporting an emotion of calm and ease. The ads call to action is to call a phone number and is expected to yield the benefit of learning about an environment that will promote their healthy return to independence . I feel the objective was measurable by following call rates after placement of the ad and quite attainable. The ad has a simple message and focuses on the fact that making a choice will not incur costs.

The Overactive Bladder research study newspaper ad highlights the problems of an overactive bladder and by implication implies that by participating in the study the elderly enrollee will potentially gain access to a medication that might help. The apparent value proposition is potential relief from the effects of an overactive bladder (incontinence). It engages the user via a woman who looks troubled and a smiling man. The ads call to action is to call a phone number and is expected to yield no cost for treatment and possible compensation. I feel the objective was easily measurable by phone call records and probably attainable. Since there is a change the person gets a placebo I feel it would be helpful to highlight how participation could help others by learning something new. Also I would expect that some compensation would be received by all participants. If so that should be a clear benefit of participating in the study.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Television DTC Ads from Pharma

I agree with the AMA's proposed Ban on DTC Ads of Prescription Drugs and Medical Devices. To me the logic of the ban is that the only other country in the world that allows direct-to-consumer drug ads is New Zealand. My goal in this blog is not to repeat the various pros and cons cited for DTC ads [per Ventola C Lee. Direct-to-Consumer Pharmaceutical Advertising. P T. 2011;36(10):669-684.] Although, for the record my interpretation is that the cons far outweigh any perceived pros.

But my goal here is to shed light on how these ads work and what makes DTC pharma ads effective advertising. I selected what are considered the best DTC pharma ads per Rand Marketing (Mar 27, 2016).

Zoloft - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twhvtzd6gXA
The ad highlights the feature of the product to correct a chemical imbalance in the brain that leads to depression in the target market of individuals with sadness. The apparent value proposition is the ability to relieve sadness. It engages the user via "cuteness" that is taking a fairly depressing (sorry) topic and making it seem kid like and cute - and potentially beatable. The ad's call to action is primarily to talk to one's doctor about Zoloft (not depression). They also highlight an ad in a magazine (Shape) and a phone number to call. Taking this action is expected to yield benefit to the viewer in terms of relieving depression.

The ad is highlighted as one of the most effective DTC ads ever. I feel the objective was measurable since data related to prescriptions is readily available and the company could measure changes in prescriptions in the markets where the ad was shown. I also feel the effect of ad was quite attainable at the time it was aired. It provided a clear call to action and doctors were likely to follow up by prescribing the drug that the patient requested. At the time there were only 2 SSRIs, and sertraline (Zoloft) had a better profile than fluoxetine (Prozac). Plus depression as a medical condition was relatively unknown yet had been introduced already by the success of fluoxetine (Prozac).

AstraZeneca- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNeB-Fw1-4g&feature=youtu.be
The ad highlights a brand that cares about healthy eating to a target market of people who eat sugar and unhealthy food. The apparent value proposition is that this company can give you advice on how to lower triglycerides and eat more healthy food. It engages the user via pictures of appetizing food (bacon sizzling), people gorging on food, and most importantly humor via 2 talking fish. The ad does not have an explicit call to action. The only benefit is one is now aware that a drug company cares about health eating and when the listener runs across marketing by the company they may see it in a more positive light vs. a manipulative ploy to highlight their drug (which relates to diabetes).

I think he ad is really funny, and the objective of putting a positive spin on the the company's brand should be easy to attain and measure via surveys and activity on social media (something they highlight in the ad).

Lipitor- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHuKjBcwb7U&feature=youtu.be
The ad highlights the ability of the product to lower cholesterol to the target market of people with measured high cholesterol or are worried that they may have high cholesterol. The apparent value proposition is that it will decrease heart disease (although the ad only mentions data that shows value in folks with existing heart disease the ad implies value for anyone with high cholesterol). It engages the viewer via a healthy nature scene, someone rowing, and calm peaceful music to instill a sense of calm and vitality. The ads call to action is "ask your doctor if Lipitor is right for you", visit the website or check out the ad in a magazine. That action is expected to yield a prescription and secondary benefit of lower cholesterol and decreased risk of heart disease.

I feel the objective was measurable because prescribing habits are obtainable on a pharmacy level.  The outcome was also attainable because people are always anxious about heart disease and cancer and cholesterol is familiar and simple number that they can understand in terms of risk (a fact that is very much in dispute).

Rozerem- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTiTAURabbA&feature=youtu.be
The ad highlights the ability of the drug to help you sleep better to a target market of folks with occasional insomnia (pretty much everyone). The apparent value proposition is this drug can help the person sleep but is not addictive and can be taken when needed. It engages the user via compassion for the person who can't sleep [he looks awful], humor with honest Abe Lincoln and an animal chatting. The ad's call to action is to "talk to your doctor" but doesn't mention the specific drug to request and is expected to yield improved sleep to the viewer who receives the prescription.

I feel the objective was measurable because prescribing habits are obtainable on a pharmacy level. The outcome (increased prescribing) was also attainable mostly because at that time most other sleep aids had been labeled as dangerous so the product was unique in the marketplace. This is perhaps why they don't mention the specific drug to ask for.

Vytorin- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_Szhp-jvqE&feature=youtu.be
The ad highlights the cholesterol lowering feature of the product to a target market of individuals with high cholesterol. The apparent value proposition is this drug will be more effective at lowering cholesterol than competive product because it lowers absorption of cholesterol and production of cholesterol. It engages the viewer by presenting picture of attractive food and people with funny poses and expressions. The ads call to action is "ask your doctor about adding Vytorin" and they also provide a phone number to call. Such action is expected to yield the benefit of lower cholesterol to the viewer.

I feel the objective was measurable because prescribing habits are obtainable on a pharmacy level. The outcome was also attainable because cholesterol is perceived as a marker of health danger, so the public sees lowering cholesterol as a worthwhile goal in of itself.

Overall the ads use a variety of techniques and in general a fairly simple "talk to your doctor" call to action. They focus on areas of challenge or frustration and offer a simple and targeted solution. When a drug is mentioned the possible downside is read by the voice-over but not visually displayed; thus fostering the image that this is would be a simple solution to their problem.