Lozenge brand Difflam uses cactus metaphor to illustrate thorny throat situations

The parent company of sore throat lozenge Difflam, iNova Pharmaceuticals, has used striking imagery to illustrate the discomfort consumers face when experiencing sore throat. 

According to Difflam’s spokesperson, the campaign targets over 25-year-olds who suffer a sore throat and individuals who “work hard to perform at their best at all times”. One of the campaign’s key visuals features a cactus wrapped around an individual's throat. Its aim is to immediately communicate the physical and metaphorical pain produced by an unwelcome sore throat and educate consumers on the functional and emotional benefits of Difflam.

The campaign is led by creative agency The Teeth, which won the account in a three-way pitch earlier this year. While the idea was the only one pitched by the agency, it was something that the agency said it was “very passionate about because of its strength in simplicity, a sound strategy yet distinctive enough to cut through the clutter”. 

The Teeth also commissioned the visual effects to The Imago in Brazil to create the realistic blend between the cactus and the neck. The films were produced by Breed and the photography was done by Colossal in Singapore.

The regional campaign comprises a series of films, social media content and in-store communications. The campaign will also run on all digital and point of sale platforms, and that the company has opted for a digital-centric campaign and adjusted its media timings to accommodate COVID lockdown measures. Difflam has currently allocated 100% of its marketing budget on digital, its spokesperson said.

In a conversation with MARKETING-INTERACTIVE, The Teeth’s spokesperson said that the experience with Difflam was collaborative and fun, and that it was a “coordination of a lifetime”, bringing together [its] creative consultant in Barcelona, the animation team in Brazil, [its] core team, videography and photography crew in Singapore. The spokesperson also said that it was grateful for Difflam’s trust which allowed it to “develop a 3D cactus across the world”. The Teeth also felt that Difflam’s belief in it as agency partners allowed the choice of the right production houses to pull off the production in a tight timeframe, as well as maximise the quality of the output in an agile way.  

Although Difflam was excited and keen on the idea of a cactus metaphor, The Teeth explained that it was also “quite a bold one in the pharmaceutical world”, and that it was challenging to execute due to the tight restrictions on advertising in the pharmaceutical industry. The regional team had to really push for it to get buy-ins from all the markets, their legal teams and to seek approval from the authorities, said the spokesperson. 

Zee Agnew, founder and business partner at The Teeth, explained that the campaign had to work on social media and in-store. The team went for the cactus metaphor not just because it was bold and memorable. She said it needed a creative idea to make the point that this is the best range of products to treat the two kinds of sore throats that Difflam has solutions for - the dry and itchy, and the painful stabbing ones. Hence, the two cacti types.

"The visual language had to be understood across all the markets we had to reach, so we went to great lengths to get it right,” she added. 

Jenny Shortall, iNova Asia marketing director, said: “We are all really impressed and proud of the new brand assets. It’s great to see a clear linkage to our brand strategy, footprint and past campaigns, and on top have really high-quality material. It was a big effort catering for all the market's requests”.

Ben Agnew, co-founder and managing partner at The Teeth said that the campaign films depict scenarios that have become more meaningful due to the pandemic. Though the visuals take the limelight, he explained that the whole campaign addresses several strategic challenges in subtler ways.

"Our audience can’t afford to let a sore throat ruin their day. Last year, Difflam established its pain-relieving credentials by featuring a bride on her wedding day. This year we wanted to go deeper and feature more frequent high-stake moments. The films cover professional situations, such as a Zoom meeting, as well as personal ones such as a birthday party and asking someone out for a date,” Ben Agnew said

On its partnership with Difflam, The Teeth’s spokesperson told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that the clients really believed in the idea and were “brave enough to take the risk to go down a different path”, which the agency hopes will show in the campaign results later. “It felt like a very strong partnership with our clients who were willing to really fight for our ideas to stay true to what we've presented from Day 1 while we fought to execute it in the best possible manner - and it's incredible to see what we've achieved together,” added the spokesperson.

The Teeth’s other works include AirAsia’s “Holiday Quickies” campaign in 2019. The campaign aimed to encourage individuals to achieve a healthy work-life balance. The campaign was later extended to a partnership with Mediacorp, where AirAsia flew local radio station YES 933’s DJs to various “quickies” around the region. Listeners got to take in highlights of the trip on YES 933, with social media used to further drive engagement

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