Article: Prognosis

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You would be amazed,” says Ellen Fields, the Managing Director of DDB Remedy, a new healthcare unit at DDB, “you could have a doctor and a patient in an office. And you could pull them out separately and you could say to the doctor “What did you say to the patient?” And then you ask the patient “What did the doctor tell you?” and it’s like two different conversations.”

Health and wellness has never been more significant economically, socially and culturally, yet it means many different things to many different people: food, medication, exercise, aging, spiritual well-being, sustainability. From new drugs and treatments, to fitness regimes, health and wellness governs every aspect of our lives.

And then there’s the internet, the biggest game- changer of all when it comes to the central doctor- patient relationship. This internet, as a source of health information, a source of data and myths and rumour, the place for succour and support groups whether it’s the ill and unwell sharing their experiences, or a venue for the fit looking to boost and extend exercise programs.

The internet is a big factor in why there are so many different perspectives on health and wellness. There is a wealth of information out there from professionals, experts of every stripe, and passionate enthusiasts. You want one sure-fire way to get fit? Here’s a hundred.

Look at all the perspectives in this advert for Brasil Sul fitness company, an image broken down into multiple viewpoints, the runner, making up the picture as she goes along:

Note, this is one of the big trends in health and wellness, you travel your own journey, you take what you need and make your own program.

This philosophy, of interested consumers intuitively piecing together their own health and wellness regimes, practices and goals is flagged up by Shelley Balanko, Vice President of Ethnographic Research at the Hartmann Research group, in Pilates and Pizza, our section on consumer attitudes.

“There are many different conversations around health and wellness, and these are happening for many reasons, not least because everyone has different ideas of what health and wellness is”

Science and research is still a story of heroes, of men and women whose commitment to their discipline makes our lives better, but increasingly people also want to make informed decision and choices. And while people are hungry for information, the way it is communicated needs some attention. Doctors, as the human face of science and knowledge have always been reassuring figures, not because they are medical robots but because of their vocation, their humanity.

It conveys the quality of emotion that Thomas Goetz, author and editor at Wired Magazine suggests in our section iMedicine, is a necessary complement to shaping behavioural change. This is central to the wider health and wellness debate. Also, contrary to one strain of communications in health and wellness, Goetz argues that fear-based ads don’t work as instigators of change, or only work in the short-term and for a limited amount of time.

It’s why clearer health information need not be exclusive of engaging information. “I guess there’s a question of whether you can be educational, informative and entertaining at the same time,” says DDB Remedy’s Ellen Fields. “We believe that yes you can. We are very committed to the letter and spirit of the law regarding the regulatory situation. What happened over the last few years is that there has been a lot of pressure for advertisers to be more conservative in their communications and we can do one of two things. We can either kick and scream or we can find ways to get ahead of the changes and continue to be successful.”


A certain emotion is part of the everyday discourse of doctor patient interaction, not least because patients’ personal health matters deeply to them. It’s not about the dispassionate diagnosis of the illness or the detached science of the solution. While the science of healthcare needs to seem ‘black and white’, and the economics of it means boxes have to be ticked, the patient’s experience of it is always more fluid. It’s something Novartis capture to a remarkable degree with the photography in their corporate communications.

Pharmaceutical giant Novartis place photography at the heart of their annual report, commissioning not just a well-known photographer for each report, but someone who is often on the frontline of news events. The narrative-based imagery is all the more powerful for its low-fi, incidental perspective which lends the work a sense of modesty. The imagery in the 2010 annual report is shot by James Nachtwey, a photojournalist and war photographer who has been developing a body of work around disease.

The 2010 report is a remarkably-curated piece of visual storytelling around research, suffering, relationships and healthcare. The subject-matter is shot with sympathy not sentimentality, and is all the more powerful because of the dignity it lends its subjects. The people in Natchwey’s frame are not victims of illness, or examples for the reader; they’re people with their own story. View the latest Novartis annual report online.

Read part two

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