The pressure on agencies to promote healthcare messages effectively
is clearly growing. But the large agencies don’t know how to talk to
consumers about health issues and they don’t know how to talk to health
Health has been a consumer issue for a long time, but has been underused
by managers of mainstream brands for fear of giving their products a
niche status. As a result, consumer agencies rarely got involved. But
now consumers are demanding a positive health value from many more
brands. Soon all brands will have to be healthy, as mobile phone
manufacturers and food retailers are aware.
Meanwhile, there is the movement of more pure healthcare brands towards
advertising direct to consumers, in addition to healthcare
In the US, more than dollars 1 billion is spent in advertising medical
products to consumers. But direct to consumer marketing is in a highly
regulated field and is still a fledgling business. In Europe agencies
need to understand the complexities of both how to communicate health
messages to consumers and how to reach health specialists.
All this presents a major opportunity for health specialist agencies,
despite the David and Goliath nature of the competition. The Goliaths -
in the shape of the big agencies - might seem the best option for an
advertiser wanting to reach a mass audience, but the Davids - the
smaller healthcare specialists - have their own advantages.
Obviously, the Goliaths are bigger, have more power and fit the bill if
you want to make a lot of noise on television. The Davids, on the other
hand, are adept at understanding health technologies and their impact on
This level of scientific insight is not commonly associated with the big
consumer agencies. When it comes to health or medical matters, consumer
agency doyens inevitably explain from the mount how pathetically
uncreative medical advertising is. It is tempting for health agency
specialists to sit back and see how consumer agencies handle medical
products creatively and watch them make the inevitable mistakes.
But, in reality, the specialist skill of the smaller agencies could only
ever have become apparent after the Goliaths had entered the field of
battle. So in the 21st century version, David doesn’t knock out Goliath,
he persuades him to join the other side, set up a joint venture or just
become good friends who can mutually benefit from their alliance.
In practice, these alliances have proved difficult because the larger
agencies don’t like the idea that they’re there for the brawn and not
the brains. But the first allegiance to get it right has huge dividends
to reap and real added value to offer.
The rules of engagement are simple:
- David should remember, he wouldn’t be at this party if Goliath hadn’t
- And Goliath ought to know that being big and not too clever doesn’t
give you much pulling power.
DOCTORS ON WHICH SPECIALIST TITLES ARE TOP OF THEIR LIST
DR KRISHNA KORLIPARA, member of the General Medical Council
I read GP, Pulse and Doctor faithfully every week as they are delivered
free to the surgery. I find their articles interesting because they
concern day-to-day practice.
Although they may cover the same subjects, they do so with a different
emphasis, which is what makes them an interesting read. The political
coverage interests me, as I like knowing what is controversial and what
people generally think about medical issues.
I subscribe to the British Medical Journal and skim through the New
England Journal of Medicine, but my biggest weakness is for GP as I’ve
been reading it for more than 20 years.
DR JOHN CORMACK, GP
For everyday news, nothing beats the ’comics’ Doctor, GP and Pulse. But
I also find the BMJ Health News daily e-mail indispensable if I’m doing
any writing or broadcasting, as it keeps me up to date with all the
latest news. It’s also easier to use for research than fusty old
volumes, as I can find any references I need in no time.
I flick through the New Scientist, and used to read Medeconomics, but am
increasingly less interested in the elitist side of general practice.
After all, I’m a GP for the good of my eternal soul, not the good of my
DR ISABEL TEAGUE, GP
The BMJ offers good weekly updates on medical matters, and I find it a
well-balanced read for GP and hospital issues. I get numerous weekly
medical magazines delivered to the surgery, and the quality is variable,
although it’s useful to flick through for articles giving an update on
political issues and hospital summaries.
I subscribe to the British Journal of Family Planning, and read the BMJ
and GP from cover to cover, but the majority go straight in the bin.
After all, if a major issue breaks, the BMJ will cover it more than
Compiled by Jenny Watts.