Volkswagen: A case study
Back in the 1930s, 40s and even 50s, typical magazine and newspaper ads looked a little something like this. The average ad would usually feature two things:
- A few different images or drawings
- A whole mess of text
These ads would pitch a pair of the highest-quality slacks or the only cigarette recommended by doctors (seriously) with paragraphs of text explaining in great detail each bell and each whistle. In the 1960s, however, we begin to see a dramatic shift. Ad agencies around the world started to rely more on images and less on text. The most iconic and striking examples are the string of VW ads that circulated from 1962 through the ’70s. VW’s ad agency, New York City’s Doyle Dane Bernbach, approached the campaign in a way no one really had before: Art first, copy second. There’s certainly a substantial amount of copy, but it existed only to brilliantly fill in what few gaps the image and headline left behind.
This style of advertising (popularized most recently by the show Mad Men) soon became the only way to sell. Striking images, powerfully minimalist copy. To this day, simplicity reigns supreme.
But for some companies, that just won’t do.
If you were to open up one of your favorite magazines — let’s say People Magazine — you might stumble upon an ad for Pridclo, a prescription drug designed to reduce blood clots. Although the ad may feature a strong image, it would no doubt be littered with taglines, functions and features, and (everybody’s favorite) a big, scary list of side effects and disclaimers.
No, the folks working on the Pridclo ads didn’t miss the memo that simpler is better. They just don’t really have a choice. FDA regulations and legal compliance oftentimes handcuff pharma and health-care companies, making it nearly impossible to pull off a truly simple ad. Even the ones that look simple likely have a whole bunch of junk on the backside of the page. In traditional advertising, it seems like this is the way it has to be.
With the advent of digital marketing, however, a few techniques offer a powerful solution.
The rise of native advertising
Native advertising, and the MAT release in particular, is one of those solutions. A MAT release (or master of aligned type, for all you 1950s marketing geeks) is a piece of branded content that mimics a news article. It presents factual information in the form of a narrative, distilled into about 500 to 700 words (minus the disclaimers) and distributed to several newspapers, as well as traditional and digital marketing outlets. And there lies the greatest opportunity for pharma companies.
The mighty MAT release is helping brands usually bogged down with legal red tape to use their most compelling asset: patient stories. These stories of patients, their ailments and their recoveries make these companies truly unique, and this form of native advertising offers the perfect medium. Just like any other story, the best kind is about a person with a specific malady that your product or service helps alleviate, with a clear beginning, middle and end. And just like that, you’ve got a piece of content that is genuine, unique and versatile, whether it’s used as part of an ad, PR or social currency.
FDA regulations aren’t going away any time soon. Pharma companies will still have to include their hefty disclaimers, their less-than-enticing side effects and whatever else the FDA requires of them. But these brands can utilize the MAT release and its narrative structure to tell patient-centric stories and create a lasting impact on a massive audience. We should know. We’ve written a few thousand of them. It’s perhaps a little more complicated than the minimalist, less-is-more examples you see in those timeless VW ads (and yes, those disclaimers and ISI info still need to be a part of the release), but it’s an incredibly effective means for pharma companies to detach from the visual and focus on the patient to tell the story.
No matter your industry, Brandpoint’s Mat release services don’t stop at writing. We also handle editing and provide access to one of the largest distribution networks in the country. Check us out for more information.