"It’s a great day to save lives.” No, this claim is not only reserved for people in healthcare or for McDreamy from Grey’s Anatomy, just like you don’t need to know how to code if you want to work in tech.
So yes, it is possible to save lives, one campaign at a time. Let’s dissect this statement further.
How often do you have an itch you need to scratch (quite literally) and end up Googling it, only to find out it affects one in 10 people or discover that whatever doesn’t kill you, at least gives you an anxiety attack? We have all been there. Except, the internet is not always accurate, or you may not even be aware of a problem, let alone find the solution. Point being, healthcare issues can be very daunting.
Advertising, however, is changing the way we see healthcare as more and more brands are stepping forward to uncover deep-rooted stigmas, increasing transparency around common health concerns and has proven time and again that creativity can spin a serious, unknown or hushed conversation into an essential discussion. I specifically remember watching blue fluid being poured from a test-tube in sanitary pad ads growing up and always found it strange that we had to make such a normal thing look like a science experiment. Then one day, the unimaginable happened – we saw actual blood on screen with Bodyform’s #BloodNormal campaign. Such is the power of advertising in shaping, changing and transforming narratives.
Surprisingly, healthcare marketing does not always come from healthcare brands. In fact, some of the best examples come from companies like Ikea and Samsung. The key seems to be unexpected innovation or using a different lens to counter a healthcare issue, without the ad sounding like an infomercial. Speaking of, let’s have a look at five of my top favourites in the category, which carry the right amount of emotional voltage and go beyond mere lip-service.
Bodyform: Womb Stories
Finally, the story or rather ‘stories’ that have been hushed for ages made their first public appearance with ‘Bodyform: Womb Stories’, a collection of women’s experiences with their bodies, told in the most riveting way. Not only was this campaign instrumental in opening up conversations around the stigma of women’s bodies, it redefined the age-old narrative used to advertise women’s sanitary products.
Through intricate yet enthralling animation, the campaign is brought to life with stories of women’s wombs and I credit its relatability to the fact that this campaign was ideated and executed by an all-woman team. It also serves as a reminder as to how crucial it is to voice and further the female narrative, especially when communicating issues surrounding women. Campaigns such as these are crucial to steer progressive conversations by removing stigmas around the discussion, especially when society blatantly disregards sharing intimate stories by associating them with shame and secrecy. The company’s research dug out the necessary data and as it turned out, one-third of women kept quiet about their menopause experiences and suffered alone. This is particularly alarming because this raises mental and physical health concerns as the more women speak up, the more likely they are to find the right support.
While healthcare advertising remains tricky territory for marketers, especially since navigating around regulations or legalities might be a challenge, it still has ample room for creativity. Additionally, it also has the potential to reach the wider public and highlight specific issues that may require greater awareness, acceptance and may just nudge someone to schedule that routine check-up!
Ikea is killer when it comes to simple innovation and fantastic design thinking. And we are not talking expensive or extensive product development, but a smart hack that made everyday products more accessible. Their ‘ThisAbles’ campaign centred on Eldar, a man with cerebral palsy who explains his struggles with everyday household items. Ikea addressed this with add-on product adaptors that could facilitate people like him. They also made these add-ons free and downloadable, making the campaign more than just an ad.
Picture this: Your post was taken down for nudity or sexual activity, when in fact you were simply trying to inform women how to self-examine themselves for signs of breast cancer. Now this could either enrage or engage. Several breast cancer nonprofits were faced with this censorship limitation to create a real-life ad, but the agency – David – thought of this problem like any rebellious teenager would, and they turned around this ‘community guideline’ while still playing by the rules. The idea was titled ‘Manboobs’: A breast cancer awareness campaign that substituted women’s breasts with men’s. It demonstrated a step-by-step early detection technique, while sparking debate on the issue of censorship. Undoubtedly the ad’s success was a breakthrough for healthcare advertising, with its light-hearted, yet very real take on the subject, intended to encourage women to self-examine.
Ministry Of Public Health, Afghanistan: The Immunity Charm
This one is a great example of tapping into local cultural insights and building a campaign rooted in data. The Immunity Charm is the story of a regular charm bracelet on the outside, meant as a symbol of protection from nazar, but made even more ‘charming’ because it doubles as code. Each bead on this bracelet is colour-coded to represent children’s immunisations and provide full information to doctors regarding a patient’s vaccination history. Due to the familiarity of such bracelets as a tradition, this was readily accepted by local communities. In an attempt to bridge the vaccination gap of 1.5 million children, due to a lack of information and pre-conceived cultural biases against vaccinations, this campaign reframed the problem with an exceptional creative hook, in line with traditional values.
Samsung: Backup Memory
For this one, I would like to welcome you to the intersection of technology and creativity that found a solution to help people with Alzheimer’s, not by a medicinal breakthrough, but by using a creative approach towards existing technology. Recent studies on Alzheimer’s indicated that mental stimulation through frequent reminders of a patient’s life events could help slow the disease. The team at Samsung and BBDO saw this as an opportunity to use existing technology for good. The connection was simple; Samsung has powerful memory backup systems that people used to store photos and videos. They used this insight to help people exhibiting early signs of the disease by developing an app called Backup Memory. It functioned as a memory stimulator, helped patients familiarise themselves with their surroundings and identify close family and friends along with real-time alerts for when the patient was approached by a relative.
Syeda Faryal Ali is Associate Creative Director, BBDO Pakistan. firstname.lastname@example.org