Early on Friday 11th March a team of us assembled at Bristol Temple Meads dressed in our finery.

For the first time in years, we were off to a proper awards do! In actual real life, with real food and drinks! No more getting dressed up to sit in the home office for an awkward video event. After the strangeness and isolation of the past few years, it felt great to be getting together.

We were thrilled to have been nominated for two awards at the PM Society Awards – Lift The Fog for BD was nominated for the Innovation Award, and our own Special Delivery marketing campaign was nominated for Agency Internal Communication and Self Promotion award (we won silver for this one).

It was actually my first time at a healthcare advertising awards, and so I personally learned a lot. Here are a few of the standout thoughts.

The stereotypes aren’t true (well, this one isn’t…)

Pharmaceutical marketing gets a hard time. Whether from cynics on the outside being dismissive of big pharma, or folks on the inside comparing the creative of ‘traditional’ advertising with pharma’s.

And honestly, I’ve been guilty of that, too. I’ve had many a good idea crippled by regulations and at times felt like pharma creative just can’t reach the heights of the sexy car brands and playful FMCG brands that dominate the conversation during award ceremony season.

But actually, I was really impressed and surprised at how amazing so many of the nominations were. I gave myself a quiet slap on the wrist for my ignorance and reminded myself that now more than ever is a very exciting time to be working in healthcare.

Throughout every category was truly brilliant work that could go toe-to-toe with brands in any sector – like The Bread Exam created by McCann agencies for LBCF which scooped an incredible five awards for its genius use of cultural insight to bring awareness to checking your breasts for abnormalities.

Heartstrings ring true

So, let’s talk about the winners.

It was largely true that the winning work often tackled very emotive topics – for example cancer, children, mental health. Tugging on the heartstrings was a way to the judges’ hearts.

And unsurprisingly so. We’re always preaching the power of emotion as the way to capture attention, prompt action, and change behaviour of HCPs and customers.

Slow the Burn by 21GRAMS for Novartis really captured my attention as an example of a highly emotive, highly effective campaign. Visceral visuals of a brain melting away like candle wax, combined with real-life story telling, really captured the devastation of SPMS and created huge sympathy. Big up everyone involved.

Big budgets and big wins

Something very noticeable to me that nearly all of the big winners had real production value. You can tell immediately that their budgets were generous and proper time was taken to ensure a flawless finish.

If only it was always this easy. Timelines are often tight, budgets often squeezed, compromises often have to be made. But the beauty of the winners really reminded me that we all need to fight a bit harder for quality – because it does pay dividends.

The Invisible Opponent by Seven Stones/AMV BBDO for CALM really exemplified that craft and investment for me. Beautifully crafted using footage of a Tyson Fury fight, the opponent was edited out so that Tyson was fighting something unseen – reflecting the internal struggles of mental health illnesses like depression. The time and attention spent here was obvious.

Overall, a very illuminating and enjoyable day. Big thanks to the PM Society and all of the lovely folks we met. See you next year!

Image credit: Comedian Russell Kane, PM Society Awards Official Photos 2022.