Maybe advertising actually can save lives

About a year ago, my old friend Tony Miller brought me into Anderson DDB to work on the global launch of an anti-inflammatory medicine for people suffering from the ravages of colitis and other chronic gut-afflicting illnesses.

“Tony, I don’t know shit about pharma,” I warned. “I failed chemistry. And biology…twice.”

But being the ever unflappable industry stalwart that he is, Tony calmly reassured me that he would have my back, and that I wouldn’t need to go back to night school to earn my lab coat stripes.

The project turned out to be a long and complex six-month journey, with a ton of moving parts and a bevy of international players. But it was also accompanied by one of the juiciest budgets I’d ever worked with.

And a funny thing happened along that road. I discovered that I really liked what I was doing.

Because along with it, came the satisfaction of knowing that the treatment we were charged with introducing to the medical community around the world could have a truly life-transforming effect on millions of people who had known nothing but pain and debilitation every single day.

That’s why, when I was recently offered the opportunity to migrate from my role at Grey to sister agency Tank to lead one of its vaccine groups, it didn’t take me long to accept.

As Marty Martinez—chief creative officer for both agencies—reminded me, health and wellness touches every aspect of our existence. And the pandemic only accelerated and escalated its importance in the lives of literally every human being on the planet.

So, after more than 25 years of selling soup, promoting potato chips, touting telecoms, pushing pop, boosting banks, marketing car metal, rallying behind retail, and cheerleading for chewing gum… it’s time to try something a little different. And the time seems right.

The category is exploding and attracting some of the world’s best talent (yours truly perhaps being the recent exception), and seems to be capturing the imagination of young creative people getting in the business who want to make a difference in the world as much as they want to win awards.

But win awards they will. If the fact I’ll be working alongside a couple of guys who bagged 30 Lions between them in their previous advertising life is any indication, I’m guessing the health and wellness category will soon be crashing the awards show parties with a vengeance.

Of course, as always, you’re probably wondering why I’m sharing all this.

Well, I saw this spot for the Pink Ribbon Foundation on behalf of Finland Cancer Research. And I laughed out loud.

I know, I know. But as twisted as that might sound, it’s because it reminded me of the phrase we’ve all grown up with in this business, hearing over and over, ad nauseam: “It’s only advertising. It’s not like we’re curing cancer or anything.”

Which got me thinking about my next chapter, and that age-old cynical assertion. What the hell, I wondered. Maybe we can. Maybe we just can help cure cancer!


Craig Redmond