It's hard to do good pharmaceutical advertising. You have to talk about illness or debilitation, and mention a sometimes comically lengthy list of side effects. The FDA is looking over your shoulder. It's not the sexiest category.
But of course, those challenges can also be what makes it fun.
As part of our CMO Report on pharmaceutical advertising, Adweek looked back at some of the more notable creative executions in pharma over the past 15 years.
• Zoloft (2001)
Adorable ads about depression and anxiety? The Pfizer brand proved it was possible with one of the most visually memorable and skillfully art-directed pharma campaigns ever. The ads, illustrated by Pat Smith, were endlessly parodied—a sure sign they connected culturally.
• Cialis (2003)
No pharma product's visual branding is as instantly recognizable as the Cialis bathtubs. The Eli Lilly brand has been using them since its 2003 launch to emphasize the idea of relaxing and taking your time—a warmer, gentler image than Pfizer's competing E.D. pill, Viagra.
• Vytorin (2006)
This ingenious campaign paired foods and family members—who look disturbingly the same—to explain that your cholesterol level is partly about what you eat and partly about genetics. One of the most clever and artful pharma campaigns ever.
• Rozerem (2007)
Abraham Lincoln, a talking beaver and a deep-sea diver appeared as visions to an insomniac in Takeda Pharmaceuticals' quirky effort for its sleep medication. Turns out they're characters from the dreams he hasn't been having, since he's been up all night.
• Lipitor (2008)
Agency: The Kaplan Thaler Group
Dr. Robert Jarvik, a pioneer in the making of the artificial heart, starred in ads for Pfizer's cholesterol drug between 2006 and 2008. The campaign was eventually scrapped under pressure—because Jarvik was neither a cardiologist nor licensed to practice medicine—but it remains one of the most memorable pharma endorsements in history.
• Epanova (2014)
Two talking dead fish starred in AstraZeneca's playful and informative campaign about managing triglycerides (while quietly pushing Epanova medication). The work won the Grand Prix in Pharma at last year's Cannes Lions Health competition.