In July 2020, Postmates launched a new spot called “Pad Thai.” It’s a parody of healthcare commercials. It does healthcare advertising dirty. And it’s perfect. (I should note right off the bat that I work in healthcare advertising so anything I say about it includes me).
The spot starts with an older couple on a hike with typical healthcare ad music and VO, which is then interrupted by Pad Thai. “Life is full of challenges, but you don’t have to Pad Thai them alone” (insert B-roll shot of Pad Thai). Cut to another older couple riding a bike, then yet another older couple gardening, “if you’re experiencing Pad Thai, there may be a way to help, the life you want is waiting.” Old couple high five! Old couple dancing! “Talk to your Pad Thai today to find out Pad Thai, Pad Thai is right for Pad Thai, Pad Thai.”
The idea for the spot is to create a typical category ad but to interrupt it with “Pad Thai” to show that when all you can think about is a certain food (or, as in the “Pad Thai” spot, “When all you can Pad Thai is think about”) you should turn to Postmates. There are other spots in the campaign, one that parodies a horror movie trailer for sushi and one that parodies a typical car commercial for fried chicken (which is quite well done) but in some ways, a healthcare ad is the obvious choice.
My first reaction to the “Pad Thai” spot was a little bit of anger, this work was created by consumer (non-healthcare) advertisers and when they looked around for some of the worst work in all of advertising to parody, they picked ours. But it isn’t just that I want healthcare advertising to do better work so that our peers stop picking on us, I want healthcare advertising to do better work because the creators of the “Pad Thai” spot were right. Their objective was to find a category with work so generic that it would be immediately recognizable to the audience such that it could be easily parodied. And while not all work in healthcare advertising is bad, no other industry has consistently created work as generic and expected as the healthcare industry has.
I hope this is a clarion call for us to do better. Healthcare is the hardest industry in which to do good advertising work (I wrote in a recent post about why healthcare work is generally so bad — it mostly has to do with a promise of normalcy) but we can do better and we must do better. At the very bottom line, I think of creativity similar to the advanced sports statistic, Wins-Above-Replacement (which measures how many more wins a team has because of a certain player than they would have otherwise had if he or she was replaced by an average player). The purpose of creativity in business is to help a brand tell a story that can make it more successful in market than it otherwise would have been with generic creative for the same product in the same media plan. Creativity is the most important and impactful thing you can control once the product is created and the organization has determined its budget for a media plan. And it’s our job in advertising to make sure that the creative is helping the brand above-and-beyond what generic creative would do. It is quite literally impossible for us to do our jobs well for our clients if we continue to do generic work. So to those of us who work in healthcare advertising, let’s all commit to ourselves right now: no more hiking, no more walks on the beach, no more gardening. Let’s do some awesome work.