By Amy Hansen

Originally published by Adweek

medical-ads-hansen-01-2016Sewer inspector. Embalmer. Gastroenterologist. Tough jobs for sure. But try healthcare advertising for a week. Just try to be creative in an environment where important safety information takes up :35 of a :60 TV spot, where rules for short-form messaging run 15 pages long, where every print ad, website, banner and video must pass a rigorous risk mitigation assessment by a medical legal review team.

The threat of an FDA letter looms large in the lives of pharmaceutical brand managers, and that can lead to a condition known as FUD: fear, uncertainty and doubt. The resulting manifestation is “safe” advertising. You’ve seen it before: Happy patient stock photo paired with a headline about how such-and-such drug can help you get back to life! I’ve stared at blank walls that are more compelling.

So here’s the thing: This highly regulated environment we live in is not a trend. It is a deeply instilled characteristic of the industry, and it is not going away. In the same way molecules are put through the R&D ringer, our ideas will continue to be scrutinized to ensure that they are viable. Sigh.

Suffice it to say that this can get old. It wears on you and tests your fortitude. Cynicism creeps in. The fire in our belly flickers.

Amy Hansen Illustration: Alex Fine

So why do we do it?

Because we are in the company of Gandhi, Buddha, Dr. Seuss, Hippocrates and countless others who have recognized that health is the most precious asset a human being can have. Think about someone close to you who has had a health issue. What would you give to ease their aches, heal their hurt or find them a cure? If healthcare advertising can help connect patients with the care they need, we can alleviate a world of pain and suffering. That is the proverbial carrot that keeps us going when the going gets tough.

But we also need tangible carrots. Baby carrots. A daily source of vitamins C (curiosity), E (excitement) and O (optimism) to fuel us through the challenges. Here are a few of mine:

Let the future of medicine inspire you. My new go-to is bioelectronics, tiny disease-modifying devices that work sort of like a Nest temperature system. The field combines wireless miniaturization, material science, computer electronics, data science, neuroscience and electronic engineering to tap into a body’s electrical impulses and teach the body to heal itself.

This is good news for the 117 million Americans who have a chronic illness. It’s about 10 years away from reality, which isn’t that long in pharma years. But the promise of being able to do some tasty, transformative creative has me learning all I can right now.

Read the original Adweek story here.

Amy Hansen (@hcb_austincd) is svp and creative director at HCB Health. 

This story first appeared in the March 28 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.