In prehistoric times, if you asked people what an advertising agency did, the answer one would get more or less was: “Make ads.” While part of this may be true, the creative industry and communication agencies have in the recent era moved miles ahead from that positioning to becoming complete business solution providers, thinking beyond just media and advertising and venturing into product, purpose and practice. One of the arenas this is emphatically demonstrative in is the healthcare industry, where creative thinking from ad agencies is providing incredible solutions that go beyond regular expectations. Although the ad industry has contributed immensely through traditional communication for decades in bringing about behaviour-changing awareness in the face of monumental challenges (such as protection during the HIV epidemic), creative teams are now geared up to engineer actual answers to healthcare problems. Here are five such examples that performed exceptionally well in providing solutions.
Blink to Speak
To help the millions of people suffering from body paralysis, the design team at TBWA India came up with an ingenious solution: invent a language that could be spoken through the eyes. Created for the non-profit Asha Ek Hope Foundation and the Neurogen Brain and Spine Institute, the colourful and simple guide teaches paralysed patients how to communicate through 50 combinations of effortless and manageable eye movements, with individual movements forming ‘alphabets’. My friend Parixit Bhattacharya, Managing Partner at TBWA India, explained how the inspiration for this Cannes Lions Healthcare Grand Prix-winning idea came through a designer who was caring for her father, an ALS patient, at home. Design lead Geet Rathi used that inspiration to construct this superb set of illustrations in their almost-childlike simplicity.
To help women understand and learn more about the proper practice of checking oneself for Breast Cancer, Colenso BBDO and the New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation engineered an app that utilises tactile feedback, visuals, audio and 3D motion to help women understand nine various symptoms.
Most of us use various forms of home alarms in our lives. But how does somebody who has limited hearing use one? Wavio and Area 23 got together to tackle this issue with an ingenious product design that connects to an app on your smartphone. When a problem occurs, the See Sound device – a first in the world – alerts an app on your phone to give you situational awareness.
To make it easier for people to have their pets’ health checked, Purina and McCann demonstrated how simple it could be. They designed digital billboards which would attract pets to urinate on them – yes it’s hard to imagine a brand lead saying “Let’s have dogs pee on my ad.” But what the billboard did was collect the urine sample and within 30 seconds give a diagnosis of any potential problem. Quite the literal example of an ad doing more than just being an ad.
The Tampon Book
Even in a developed country like Germany, tax laws are a head scratcher. Consider that a luxury item like caviar has a reduced tax rate of seven percent, while tampons, which are also considered luxury items, are subject to the top VAT rate of a whopping 19%. Along came Scholz & Friends and The Female Company, who didn’t want to just sell more feminine hygiene products, they also wanted to make a statement against this ridiculously discriminatory tax law. The insight was remarkably simple: one of the least taxed items in Germany are books – so the solution was to sell tampons packaged inside a book. A 45-page collection of provocative illustrations and content that seeks to empower women, The Tampon Book comes with a few tampons embedded inside the back cover to use. A highly effective and brilliant hack.
Creativity in this industry, at its heart, is a mechanism to solve a problem. These solutions, however, have now evolved from simply being awareness-generating platforms to much more robust and practical tools to address and resolve the issue itself.
Ali Rez is Regional ECD, Middle East and Pakistan, BBDO Worldwide. He is an 11-time Cannes Lions winner and has won the Effie Grand Prix twice in two years. firstname.lastname@example.org