For WARC’s third marketing truth, we turned to a category that most don’t think of when it comes to leading with creativity, pharmaceuticals. Here, Jim DeLash, marketing director, GSK direct & long-tail customer acquisition, vaccines, US, explains how he’s used the principles of creative effectiveness to reach both consumers and physicians.

Podcast episode

Marketing Truth #3: Creativity supercharges marketing's impact
with Jim DeLash, marketing director, GSK direct & long-tail customer acquisition, vaccines, US

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Creativity is the most important driver of ad effectiveness, according to studies from Nielsen over the last few years. According to Nielsen, creativity accounts for 47% of advertising’s impact on sales. This study was originally done in 2017 and replicated recently with the same outcome.

Yet, a recent study from Peter Field and Adam Morgan laying out the high cost of being dull indicates that many marketers have still not figured out how to generate that breakthrough creative. Adam Morgan explained the four types of dull advertising at January’s Most Contagious event in New York City:

  1. The subject of the advertising is something the audience does not care about
  2. The ad shows a perspective the audience already knows
  3. The message is presented in the same way as everyone else in the market
  4. The message does not involve the audience

There is a cost to dull advertising and marketing. When creative messages don’t connect with their audience, more frequency is required to get their attention. In addition to increased media costs, dull advertising is less likely to be as effective as emotional, interesting creative messages. That means that additional messages will need to be developed. So, dull advertising delivers a double detrimental whammy – increased media and creative costs and reduced effectiveness. Hmmm…and yet creativity is the one tool that is completely in a marketer’s control.

The answer is to spend the time to direct your agencies to develop creative that will get attention and evoke an emotional reaction to the ads. Emotional ads are more than two times more impactful than rational ads. The great adman David Ogilvy knew this: “It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product.”

Ogilvy also cautioned, ““A lot of today’s campaigns are based on optimum positioning but are totally ineffective – because they are dull, or badly constructed, or ineptly written. If nobody reads your advertisement or looks at your commercial, it doesn’t do you much good to have the right positioning.”

The best way to get to a big idea is for the client to provide clear objectives and strategy for what the creative needs to accomplish through the campaign brief. The Better Briefs project showed how clients and agencies have different views of the effectiveness of briefs. Over 80% of clients think their briefs are clear, while only 10% of agencies agree. This disconnect reinforces the need for clients to provide clearer direction to agencies. There is little chance of getting breakthrough creative without it.

Another key aspect of how I work with agencies is making sure we all understand how the creative and media will work together. After the first iteration of the brief, we ask for what we call a “words and music” brief, which is a euphemism for media and creative working together. The response to the campaign brief should include why the creative concept will achieve the goal, but also the type of media or the channels in which it's going to run. The mindset of the audience is very different depending on which channel they're consuming the information, and it’s important that the messaging matches the environment. Pharma has the added challenge of needing to reach consumers as well as physicians, and we’ve found that similar messaging improves the connection to both audiences.

A specific challenge in maximizing B2B marketing effectiveness is reaching the audience when they are in the frame of mind to buy the product, which only happens about 5% of the time. Since the marketer is not likely to know when that 5% is, it is critical to mix brand building advertising (aka, the long) with performance marketing (aka, the short) designed to get a response. The creative approach will be different for the brand building advertising and the performance marketing, but the importance of each is equal. For early adopters, rational messaging can work because they have been following the drug’s development, and they are ready to order. As you move further away from launch for a new drug, you need an emotional trigger to ensure you will get noticed by the group that isn’t ready to start prescribing the drug.

When it comes to brand building for pharma, both physicians and consumers need to be messaged about the advantages and benefits of taking the drug, as well as the emotional reason to prescribe or ask for the drug. We’ve learned that syncing the emotional storytelling messaging to both doctors and patients has led to better outcomes. 

A recent analysis from System1 showed that creative wear out is a myth, so when you find that elusive emotional ad campaign, let it run! The longer the duration of a campaign, the higher its effectiveness, and that emotional connection can be established for both physicians and consumers.