How Symbicort could've raised its grade from 'meh' to 'meh+'

How Symbicort could've raised its grade from 'meh' to 'meh+'

Symbicort is a drug used in the treatment of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder). It's been promoted in heavy rotation and represents about 10% of the revenues of drug giant AstraZeneca, which is why I'm a little dismayed that this ad's such a 'meh'.

My first criticism of the spot is not specifically tied to @BrandROI's older-consumer focus. I'm just bugged that this spot is an example of the creative department "handing the brief back" in the form of a script.

What I mean by that is, somewhere in ad-land a planner wrote a sentence in a brief that went, "These people want to control their COPD so that they can do things like go fishing with their grandchildren." 

Either because the creative team couldn't come up with anything more original, or because the suits on the account fixated on that simple image, they ended up settling for a cliched script in which — surprise — the guy goes fishing with his grandchildren. 

Meh. But watch the ad and then I'll tell you how they could have got it to 'Meh+'.

Why did the stylists and wardrobe people feel they had to make their actor a caricature of the fishing grandpa? Compare the Symbicort guy... this actual fishing guide I found in a Simms fishing equipment catalog. 

I'll leave it to others to point out that the agency and producers of the spot obviously didn't bother asking anyone who actually knows how to fly-fish to come along when they were shooting the spot.The two men are about the same age and even look similar, but Simms' model somehow seems cool. He's the one the kid would want to fish with; he's also the character actual COPD patients probably aspire to be.

The kids working in the agency  and the young, hip crew who produced the spot, dressed and styled the actor to conform to a very particular archetype, although they themselves aren't old enough to know where that archetype originated.

Ironically, anyone old enough to actually need Symbicort for COPD almost certainly does recognize the wardrobe: They've dressed him as a live-action version of Mr. Wilson, Dennis the Menace's grumpy old neighbor.

So there are two demographically specific things that bug me about this spot: 

First, anyone who grew up reading Hank Ketcham's classic comic strip relates to Dennis the Menace, not Mr. Wilson. Our 'inner Dennis' would rather go to the skateboard park with our grandson, even if it meant we just watched while he did tricks. It would be even better if, together, we then lied to Mrs. Wilson and told her we'd been fishing at the end of the spot, because she didn't approve of skateboarding.

And second, who, at Evologue (the B2C division of Ogilvy's Commonhealth ad agency network) thought that making the central character a caricature instead of cool would somehow sell more Symbicort? Does anyone in the agency really think that there is a consumer, anywhere, who would look at my cool model and think, "Oh, I guess this drug treatment is only for more badass dudes than me. I'll keep watching TV until I see an ad for Advair, aimed at goofy old farts"?

The truth is, for COPD patients, just going fishing — doing almost anything out of the Lazyboy — is aspirational. But there was nothing to lose by dressing and styling the actor in a manner that sent the message that yes, you've got COPD but you're still Dennis inside.