Codes and condoms: why some protection is vital for health

Raquel Newman
April 1, 2014

Medicines Australia code

A few nights ago, I was at a friend’s house – lured there by the promise of a brand new ‘who done it’ and a glass of wine. Now I’m crazy for a good murder mystery, and I award bonus points for realistic autopsies. But as I don’t own a television, it was kind of a novelty for me for to see a program at the time of it going to air. So I was a bit excited (about the wine too).

At ad-break number one, I remembered why I don’t have a TV.

I’ve mostly forgotten the details of what was being advertised, but I know I was angry at something. Inciting forgettable fury: that’s quite a feat. Good one, advertising gurus.

As much as I might bemoan living in a nanny state, at that point I was wishing that advertising standards were harsher. I hoped that whoever pitched the idea that deodorant could make you less tired or more fun (or whatever it was; it wasn’t less smelly) got a high five, in the face. With a chair. Twice.

And it got me thinking about rules around claims.

Every day, we write – and design – with the Medicines Australia Code in mind. This is a set of rules intended to prevent the publication of claims that cannot be proven, among other things.

Sometimes it can be a bit like trying to tell a good story while you’re underwater. So. Many. Rules.

So what to do when you can see the point of the rules, but find them… well, a bit of a barrier to creative passion? You learn to look at them differently.

Which brings me to the condom part (I know you were waiting).

First, it’s a good segue to show you an example of creative healthcare comms that I really like: 10 Ways A Condom Can’t Protect You by the Centre for HIV & Sexual Health, Sheffield.

Second, condoms can be considered to play a similar role to the rules of our industry. Once you accept that some things are necessary for everyone’s protection, you learn to look at them not as constraints but as an important part of the process.

As to how you continue to develop compelling communications within those rules … well that’s where the creativity comes in.

Standards are maintained. And no one ends up getting smacked in the face with a chair.

Raquel Newman is a Writer at Wellmark

For more insights into healthcare communications, follow us on Twitter @wellmark_health.

If you are interested in knowing more about our work in healthcare communications and pharmaceutical marketing, click here.

‘London Zoo – Do not cross the safety barrier’ image by Elliott Brown, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons under a CC BY 2.0 licence.

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