Emotion the next frontier for pharma marketing

DDB Remedy executive creative director Scott Smith
By DDB Remedy executive creative director Scott Smith | 24 September 2019

As healthcare advertising continues to become more mainstream and leverage the rich source of creative opportunities previously reserved for other brands, one erroneous argument stands in the way.

The assertion that healthcare professionals are automatons – trained from birth to be immune to emotion, to base every decision purely on rational evidence, studies and data.

And consequently, some assume only highly rational, detailed communications deliver efficacy.

If this is true, then the prognosis for us all is dire. Because emotion is our conceptual wonder-drug - something every creative has intuitively known since first catching the advertising bug.

It seems we’ve forgotten that doctors are also human beings.

And ironically, both behavioural, and neuroscientists have now gathered evidence that we human beings - as Nobel Prize winning psychologist, Daniel Kahneman so pithily puts it – think much less than we think we think.

He contends that our brains are not evenly divided into rational and emotional spheres, and that our rational minds are owned by our feelings and emotions.

Even the high-functioning brains of doctors. Perhaps especially those of doctors.

After all, we’re talking about a target audience that have chosen helping others as their life’s vocation. It’s a calling that requires empathy as well as expertise, supporting their patients through the emotional impact of their condition as well as the physical.

Be as cynical as you like about golf days and remuneration, but there are easier ways of making a buck.

In a world where generics and biologics often mirror the efficacy of originator drugs, the decision on what to prescribe is more likely to be made on emotion, rather than any incremental competitive advantage.

And as the over-tired GP surfs, skims and fast-forwards through their trade-media consumption day, the old adage about having a few seconds to grab their attention is overly optimistic.

There’s no time to absorb a rational argument. We need something fast-acting and targeted.

Something that makes them feel good about the brand, their decision to prescribe it, and about themselves.

So, when confronted by emotional naysayers, I offer a second opinion. Nowhere is emotion more relevant than healthcare – a category that operates at the intersection of the modern, ever-changing technological world, and the unchanging human need for wellness.

The creative opportunities this presents are immense as evidenced by the recognition that the best of healthcare work is receiving at major global award shows.

Of course, this is nothing new. It’s a conviction DDB has pursued and refined since Bernbach first shared his deep understanding of what drives us as human beings. It’s even more relevant today than it was back then - particularly for those of us at the heart of health.

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