Prestigious awards for healthcare communications tend to be dominated by the big network agencies and their offshoots. And the work deserves the wins. Imaginative, innovative, powerful, arresting – it’s all of that. But is it inspiring the rest of us to emulate these creative heights? And if not, why not?
Once a creative backwater, the healthcare comms industry has seen a progressive ascent in quality over recent years. Health ads have come a long way from the ‘patient standing at a forked path in the forest’ cliché of old.
And when a global client has the budget and bravery to commit to a big idea, the results are truly impressive. Look at McCann Health China’s Breath of Life app, which enables COPD to be spotted earlier simply, by breathing at a phone (and creating a beautiful bespoke tree design in the process).
But where does this leave small-to-medium independent agencies and their clients, who may not have the same resources, timescale or freedom?
It’s all too easy to look at the dazzling CGI, original songs and world-class animation that feature in award-winning work and think, ‘Yeah, but could you have done that within the budget and the timeframe we’ve been given?’ Too easy to conclude that we can’t compete – so why bother paying all that money to enter?
These issues came to mind recently when we made the shortlist for the Creative Floor Awards with two campaigns: Blurred Lines (an awareness campaign for the UK Sepsis Trust, pointing out the link between Covid-19 and sepsis) and Rain Free Days, an app we created to help migraine sufferers track and manage their symptoms.
As one of the few independent agencies shortlisted, we’re just breaking onto a scene dominated by a handful of large networks. So how can we box clever and compete with the big boys, when our clients may be working with more constrained budgets and timeframes? And why should we, and our clients, care about winning?
Let’s answer those questions in reverse order.
In the secretive world of healthcare comms, where confidentiality is king, creating pioneering, award-winning work is a rare short-cut to external brand recognition and clear differentiation from rival products.
It’s also, let’s face it, no bad thing for the industry reputations of the brand managers and creative teams involved. It shows that you’re brave and forward-thinking. And it helps to stimulate creative competition, so the overall standard of healthcare advertising rises. We should all want to be on board with that.
But how do we get round the real-world problems? Short lead times, tactical briefs, tight budgets?
Admittedly, blue-sky Hollywood budgets aren’t always possible. But what each client and agency partnership can commit to is going on the journey together and working strategically towards the strong business outcomes that we all want. If we collaborate from the get-go, rather than as a last-minute tactical response, then the creative team has the time to gather deep insights and articulate them into big ideas.
When this happens, you get award-winning creative like CDM’s London social campaign for The Brain Tumour Charity, which used graphic art and funny clips to target young people with the message that ‘typical teenage behaviour’ can sometimes mask brain tumour symptoms. Or the brilliant ‘Andi Goes’ storybook by Havas Lynx, which turns stressful childhood dyslexia tests into a fun bedtime routine.
Campaigns like this don’t depend on unlimited budget. Rather, they happen when creative teams have the time to really get under the skin of a problem, the opportunity to collaborate with experts, and the freedom to come up with a big idea founded on real truths.
And when that happens, we all win.
About 11 London
11 London is an advertising and communications agency, based in West London. We work in the areas of health and humanity - with organisations, brands or products that improve or prolong life. To learn more about 11 London, please contact: