Ad of the Day: GlaxoSmithKline

TBWA crafts a heart-pounding Olympic tribute to drug-free adrenaline

It's rare to to see a drug ad that isn't, at best, bore-you-to-tears dull. But GlaxoSmithKline launched a new spot this week that's actually worth watching.

Created by TBWA in London to shed light on GSK's steroid-screening duties at the 2012 Olympics, the ad—the first in a campaign starring a seres of British Olympians and Paralympians—focuses on sprinter Marlon Devonish, seen at the starting block in a packed stadium. More pointedly, it focuses on Devonish's insides, where a trip through his ear canal (yes, it's kind of gross) reveals firing synapses, a pounding heart and a series of other symbols—both anatomical and abstract—all illustrating the adrenaline rush he's getting from the roars in the bleachers. The tagline: "The crowd is my only drug."

Inner-body animation is the regular stuff of pharma ads—usually used to simulate the specific benefits of a particular drug. Here it's doing a lot more, visualizing the feeling of a moment that's visceral for both athletes and fans, and doing it with enough artistry to keep it from feeling entirely hokey. Yes, it's a little showy, but so are the Olympics. And the images that might seem out of left field—the insect in a jar and the tornado, for example—work surprisingly well as metaphors for the extremes of the runner's relationship with spectator noise, oscillating between background distraction and urgent, get-your-ass-in-gear motivation. With all that high-tension atmosphere nicely conjured, the spot still manages to tie in a message about the brand's role and relevance.

Overall, it almost helps ameliorate our resistance to the drug-peddling genre. Of course, it's not really selling pharmaceuticals. In fact, it's decrying them. It's also an easier pitch than selling an arcanely named product with a litany of side effects. Athletes competing drug-free—in other words, not cheating—is a message that's pretty easy for everyone to get behind.

Client: GlaxoSmithKline
Senior Vice President, Global Communications: Phil Thomson
Vice President, Corporate Communications: Kerry O'Callaghan
Program Director: Clare Brosnan

Creative Agency: TBWA\London
Executive Creative Director: Dede Laurentino
Creative Director, Writer: Fabio Abram
Creative Director, Art Director: Braulio Kuwabara
Chief Strategy Officer: Zaid Al-Zaidy
Strategic Planner: Jenna Hoyle
Group Account Director: Emma Massey
Account Executive: Kirsten Barnes
Head of Broadcast: Jason Ayers
Producers: Natalie Spooner, Gill Oglethorpe, Nicholas Kurs
Production Manager: Melanie McGee

Production Company: Outsider
Director: Scott Lyon
Producer: Zeno Campbell-Salmon
Editor: Art Jones, Work Film Editors
Postproduction: Electric Theatre
Postproduction Producer: Lee Pavey
Flame Artist: Giles Cheetham
Sound: Factory Studios
Sound Engineer: Anthony Moore

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.