In this article, Zach McMordie, senior creative at The Mission Control Communications, looks at some of the challenges facing advertising agencies and brands entering directly or indirectly for the first time into the sphere of science and healthcare communications and engagement.
“We work in one of the most tightly regulated sectors of advertising and marketing in the world, which is fully understandable when you consider that there is perhaps nothing more important to people than their health and wellbeing.
It is therefore a sector in which validation of the facts is paramount in everything we do from creating an advertising campaign to originating a product or brand identity. However – with more and more advertising and design agencies being attracted to the sector; collectively we are seeing many of the newcomers falling foul of the regulatory bodies and public opinion.
Whist those of us who have worked in the sector for years will be familiar with the regulatory stipulations and need for validation of the facts, those new to the area are finding that the laxer approaches often acceptable in other areas of advertising and marketing are simply not acceptable in this arena where the necessity for facts is so important.
Take wearable’s as an example. With science, healthcare and technology now finding multiple areas of commonality, one area that is finding itself now firmly in the crosshairs for scrutiny is ‘wearables’.
Technology companies have been quick to recognise the market opportunities and massive profits to be made by ‘app’inizing’ health related solutions for a society that is becoming ever more health aware, whilst at the same time, evermore reliant on technology.
From monitoring your heart rate, to measuring your sleep patterns and stress levels, the marketing promises made by many of these products have fallen short of their actual deliverable outcome and people have been quick to respond. A number of lawsuits are already in progress in the United States and they are opening the door to similar actions in other countries. What many of the newcomers to this sector need to understand is that people demand any marketing comms related to the subject of health and wellbeing to be trustworthy and reliable as lives do depend on it. They won’t accept adlands fluffy exaggerations. To put that into context of a brand story, audiences, stakeholders and regulatory bodies require a brand story rooted in fact – not fiction.
Another area that is coming under close examination is the misrepresentation of items to tap into the lucrative health market. The most common offences include the misuse of terms such as ‘organic’ and ‘natural’. In the marketers’ lexicon, these terms have been buzzwords to be used to bestow health claims and perceived benefits to just about every sort of food, drink and cosmetic you can think of. Yet in the US, the Federal Trade Commission is moving to tackle this issue and has recently noted in an article carried in AdAge, that the FTC “has instituted numerous actions regarding dietary supplements claims and false promises of weight loss (ending the fad of green coffee products), and it challenged “natural” claims in the context of personal care products for the first time.”
With all that said, if I had any advice for another agency trying to enter into the life science and healthcare sector, it would be this: make it your business to understand the region by region legalities, technicalities and nuances of the market you are working in and that above all – understand that creativity without validation means nothing to an informed audience.”