Steps in the Rapid Startup Design Strategy to Create a Viable Company (655-2)

The Rapid Startup Design Strategy Overall : Go stepwise, don't dawdle, constantly always ask yourself, " Is this a dead end? &qu...

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.


  1. Hi Brad,

    This is awesome, very well written and thought out! I am completely new and unexperienced in anything and everything medical, so I found out lots of cool things by reading your article. I agree with you that the Zoloft ad is great! It's simple and makes a compelling point to the reader: you only get one chance to raise your kids, so don't raise them while being depressed. Even for people who might think "my depression just affects me, so I can deal with it", when they hear the value proposition of Zoloft, they might just reconsider because it is now about someone else. It's about their children and those around them.

    Again, well done.

    1. Thanks for taking a look Austin. In many ways Zoloft helped transform the public image of psychiatry and mental [I use the term brain-based] illness. In the debate over DTC marketing of drugs it is certainly among the "best case" examples.

      At some level it is sad that the campaign died there. I can imagine great value (to society) had the strategy been deployed to address anxiety, prescription drug (opioid) addiction, or Alzheimer's Dementia. Sadly someone else sells those products.

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