Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Sep 22, 2016

Healthcare creativity in China: The not-so-bitter pill

Healthcare ads in China, hemmed in by tight rules and conservative clients, have long been criticised for lacklustre creativity, but that is improving, according to a Spikes Asia presentation featuring Johnson & Johnson and J. Walter Thompson.

L-R: Lo, Hatalkar
L-R: Lo, Hatalkar

SPIKES ASIA - This presentation about healthcare advertising in China was bookended by two very different ads for Motrin (美林, a medicine for fever). 

The first, a 2015 TVC, showed two Chinese gold-medal gymnasts. 

However, in 2016, the government imposed new regulations for healthcare publicity. Today there should be no celebrities visible, so this means the gold medalists must be gone. There should be no heroic images, so the shots of the feverish child turning into a firefighter must be gone. And there should be no before-and-after comparisons, so the benefit of the drug must not be featured.

At the same time, the industry seems to be self-censoring and putting limits on itself, said Lakish Hatalkar, Johnson & Johnson’s Asia Pacific vice president for over-the-counter (OTC). "There must be an unwritten rulebook that every healthcare ad features a jumping shot," he quipped, showing a collage of such visuals to Spikes delegates.

More Spikes Asia 2016 coverage

But healthcare creativity is at a pivot point in China, he said, as digital innovation is opening the doorway for new kinds of content and consumers themselves are changing quickly.

Across China, the targets of most pharma and OTC ads—women—are defying stereotypes and challenging cultural norms, opening a rich ground for marketers.

Moms, especially, are changing their mindsets from being self-sacrificing to more progressive in terms of expecting mutual love from the whole family. J&J has also found that Chinese millennials feel they have to assert themselves within that new family dynamic.

"We think this is a great opportunity to connect a healthcare product to the care provider," shared Lo Sheung Yan, J. Walter Thompson Asia Pacific’s creative council chairman.

He observed a new social trend in China: Moms are transforming from 'tiger-mom' controllers who force their children to succeed into facilitators who empower their children's passions.

That was the master insight behind a new Motrin #母爱无敌# ad launched on Mother's Day this year. This time, the brand featured an "unstoppable mom" who didn't let fever take away her daughter's spotlight on the dance floor, Hatalkar saideven when a lady in a lift, acting as the embodiment of the 'tiger mom' philosophy, commented to the mom that "dancing is a waste of time".

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