Creative Pharma Advertising: A Contradiction in Terms?

Dear House Rules,

My company is launching a new product in a crowded category next year. We want a marketing campaign that really stands out from our competitors. How do we achieve that with so much pharma regulation?


Sick of being “safe”

Dear Safe,

Pharmaceutical companies face a great deal of external scrutiny and regulation about brand messages and communication methods. This leads to an increasingly risk-averse internal environment which can hamper creativity. However, in order to break through the advertising clutter on both digital and print platforms, it’s crucial for pharma companies to deliver communications with stopping power and use the most up-to-date platforms available.

This seeming conundrum is not an easy riddle to solve, but it can be done. Here are a few pointers:

  • Learn the regulations, but don’t fear them: You can’t break out of the box until you know where the walls are. If you have a thorough understanding of what you can’t do and say, it’ll be easier to focus on what you can. Remember too that requirements can change quickly, so it’s important to position yourself to react to those changes as nimbly as possible. Finally, keep in mind that  you shouldn’t discount a new concept just because nothing like it’s been done before, Shoot for the moon – even if you don’t make it, chances are you’ll still land in the stars.
  • Get support from the top first: Social media and mobile technology have significantly changed the way healthcare companies communicate. Considering boosting brand awareness with an innovative Twitter campaign? Looking to start an unbranded blog about a particular disease (with links to your product’s website)? Make sure you get buy-in from senior management first. With their support, you’ll be in a much better position to “fight for” a novel concept if you need to.
  • Play on the emotions: HCPs are people as well as clinicians, and patients often identify more with communications that appeal to their hearts than their minds. As Sameer Desai, Head of Consumer Healthcare, Asia Pacific, Middle East, Africa & Latin America, Mundipharma, says, “Reflecting emotions in our communications greatly enhances impact. And the best part is that this does not violate any regulations that I know of! The patient’s emotional journey can be brought to life much better nowadays through patient videos and blogs. I have had far more successes with emotion-rich creative campaigns on pharma brands than with bland rational ones.”

Creativity isn’t just possible, it’s increasingly rewarded. In fact, the organizers of the Cannes Film Festival recently began hosting the Cannes Lions Health festival – two days dedicated to exploring and celebrating the most creative work in healthcare communications and marketing.

So yes, you may face some regulatory barriers, but the drive to infuse healthcare with fresh ideas and new approaches is urgent. You can be a part of it – just make sure you have an experienced brand-building partner by your side.

About Xavier Creative House

Founded in 2013, Xavier Creative House (XCH) is an award-winning healthcare creative agency specializing in pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device. XCH’s global team of brand builders and healthcare marketers, tech-savvy go-getters, and innovative dream-vetters are passionate about the big idea that changes behavior in the healthcare marketplace. They believe life is about connections and that healthcare is about life. That is why XCH delivers bold and evocative creative solutions, amplified by meaningful technology, to energize brands and authentically connect with patients and HCPs.

Where Healthcare Brands Live®

For more information, contact

Sunny White
Founder & CEO of Xavier Creative House