The Spot: I Want a New Drug

Help Remedies is a different type of pharma company: one that promises you less, in strange and compelling advertising

GENESIS: Richard Fine and Nathan Frank felt that pharmaceutical products and their marketing were needlessly complex, wasteful and confusing. They wanted to make simpler drugs, give them simpler names, put them in more inviting packaging, and sell them with more interesting ads. In 2008, they launched their own drug company, calling it Help Remedies—"instead of Sominominex or something," says Fine, the CEO. They developed over-the-counter drugs, each with a single active ingredient, and named them after the symptoms they treat: Help I can't sleep, Help I have a headache, etc. Then they began advertising them in ways that defy the category's conservative norms. First, they did some dark, hallucinatory spots for Help I can't sleep that recommended bizarre dream narratives for people with psychologically induced insomnias. Now, they're launching "Take less," a manifesto campaign that opens with a trippy 60-second stop-motion spot attacking Big Pharma for its excesses—medical, cosmetic and linguistic.

COPYWRITING: The spot assails Help's rivals for putting more ingredients in their products, adding more dyes, and speaking in more confusing language. These points are made by a man eating a giant pill, a woman covered in paint, and a doctor literally talking gibberish. "We wanted something visual and simple and quick," says Frank, the creative director. The "Take less" line started out as "Take less drugs," which was bolder but legally problematic. They also considered "Take less nonsense," but went with the simpler, more flexible line.

ART DIRECTION: Visually, the spot is a bright, poppy, quirky spoof of short educational films. Frank took inspiration from vintage Sesame Street shows and old Jim Henson movies. He chose stop motion to create a stylized world in which comic visual exaggeration can feel fresh and novel. Much of the on-screen text is made by pills moving around and forming words—a motif found in other campaign materials as well.

FILMING: Frank worked with a former creative partner, Paul Caiozzo, on both the dream scenarios and the "Take less" spot. (Agencytwofifteen was credited on the earlier ads, since Caiozzo worked there at the time. He has since left, and no agency was involved in "Take less.") Jason Jones of the Lifelong Friendship Society directed both campaigns. Frank calls Jones "a great visualist" who can bring darker and brighter themes to life with equal skill.

TALENT: "You see the people in a Viagra ad, and they're 20-year-olds dressed up to be 60-year-olds," says Frank. He wanted more normal-looking people. The doctor, who is meant to be a stereotype, is an exception.

SOUND: Help worked with a music company for months, but ended up using a score by in-house designer Phillip Nessen. The music is jazzy, cartoony and off-kilter. "There are a lot of atonal punctuation marks," says Frank. "By the end, it comes together in a harmonious way."

MEDIA: The spot is running on YouTube and Other campaign elements are strange, inventive and fun. A Facebook photo of a large jar of pills asks you to guess how many people it could poison. QR codes on 8,000 in-store displays lead to the "Take less" spot. A companion video is a mind-numbing two-hour pan down an endless drug aisle. A giant infographic by a data visualizer illustrates the thousands of choices you have at a drugstore if you have a simple headache. Help also worked with an online naming company (Squad Help) and an online design company (99 to come up with more traditional (i.e., terrible) names for three of its products. And the site is a trove of curiosities and hilarity. "Some things we do just because we want to," says Frank. "It's to make ourselves happy. That's why this brand exists."


Client: Help Remedies
Director: Jason Jones
Director of Photography: Adam Lukens
Executive Producer: Dan Sormani
Producer: Kim Koby
Casting: Matthew Wulf
Production Designer: Jeanelle Marie
Wardrobe: Anna Pitman
Stop Motion: Mark Phillips
Stop Motion: Luke Rotzler
Copywriter: Nathan Frank
Art Director: Nathan Frank
Art Director: Paul Caiozzo
Copywriter: Paul Caiozzo
Production Company: Lifelong Friendship Society
Music: Phillip Nessen