Ads for healthcare startups

Witty Ad Ideas for Healthcare Startups

How to Challenge Cognitive Skills

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” – Albert Einstein
Healthcare is a serious business but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. As of now, most ads from healthcare sector are clichéd and repetitive. Aiming for a low involvement audience will not help you get your message across many medical institutes, therapists, or consultants running their private businesses. The question is, how does your service or product offer creates a difference? Truth be told it’s all a game of perception and for consumers their perception is their reality.

An advertisement bragging about exceptional service is not decisive because every other hospital or private consultant in town is doing that. A convincing ad invites you to reason, and think hard. That’s where you create engagement with your customer even before meeting them. Adding sensible humor to an ad can make it more compulsive. Pairing wit with your message simplifies the information processing stage and facilitates the consumer in three ways:

• De-stresses the mind
• Invites active thinking
• Leaves a memory

Are witty ads the only way to create engagement for healthcare startups? Of course not, but it’s quite effective in captivating attention and cognition. It makes us think, and creates association.

What is cognition?

Simply put, it is the ability to think while applying conscious reasoning. While humans do a lot of things out of habit, they do some tasks that require logical processing or interpretation that is not part of their habit. This can involve a fun activity like playing chess, solving a puzzle or perhaps cracking a language code. In his book Archer mentions that:

“We don’t yet know the fastest way the human brain and body can learn. Science is still working on it. But we do know 100 times more than we did 20 years ago. And 1,000 times more than we did 100 years ago, which was when most traditional learning methods were developed. The methods still used today by most teachers and students.”
The same science is being used to apply in marketing and branding today. Sometimes decision making requires cognitive skills which is why marketers are willing to learn more about cognitive psychology of their consumers.

How Cognitive Skills Can Be Challenged In Healthcare Ads

Witty ads are effective in getting the message across when your audience is learned and responsive. However, it’s important to be authentic and credible as well, for there is no margin of error in the healthcare industry. In this context, start-ups from the healthcare sector can use visual cues and emotional stimulus to stir their audiences.
Are you ready to challenge your cognitive skills? Check out this interesting collection of witty ads from the healthcare sector.

1. Reaper to vanquish bacteria and plaque

In a world where advertisers seek greater communication effectiveness, this ad for Halloween targets consumers with cognitive skills. A reaper is a symbol of death and dental plaque is the enemy here. Instead of holding an axe this reaper has a floss as the weapon.

witty ads, dental ad, healthcare ad

2. Is that a bandage for underwater creatures?

We all know how bandages go off when they come in contact with water but this particular one will not be damaged even when you are under water. That sort of message is only for the high involvement audience who already know what the product is about. What they are seeking is an additional factor that makes the product different from others.

creative ad, healthcare ad

3. Self-medication can kill

Prescription drug abuse is getting to be a part of our culture. It has claimed a lot of lives including some celebrities. Now this print ad has a non-verbal image type appeal that appears self-explanatory to people who are familiar with the idea of self-medication. Once the target audience is exposed to this advertisement, they will immediately catch the message.


4. Christmas spirit is everywhere

Is that a Christmas tree on a radiograph? Now this one captures attention at the first glance. The message is presented in any image without any taglines or verbal cues. It is not any promotion tactic but an effective way to connect with the consumer.


5. A cavity ruins everything

When your teeth are perfectly aligned to give you a bright and gleaming smile, guess what ruins it all? This ad for dental care covers a common problem in a not-so-common way. Obviously, the ad cannot be understood by low involving audience or those who have never suffered from cavities. Only those who have cavities can spot it. It’s tricky to make people to think, and judging from this effort, I would say bravo to Colgate.

dental ads

6.When you can’t see what’s in front of you

Up next is another treat for your visual senses. This advertisement speaks about laser eye surgery without really speaking anything. It literally paints a picture about the world of people with the problem of far-sightedness. It is a clear example of negative reinforcement. Negative reinforcement according to Cherry is:

“A response or behavior is strengthened by stopping, removing or avoiding a negative outcome or aversive stimulus.”

The ad shows an obstructed vision of a person on a canvas and reinforces him to get a laser surgery in order to avoid the problem.

>eye clinic adImage Source:

7. Maccabi’s iPhone app to get you doctors’ appointment anywhere anytime

It was easier to give out relevant information about Maccabi’s app on iPhone but they tried something else entirely. They wanted to focus two words and depict them in one image. Those two words are “anytime, anywhere”. This ad is a smart attempt to focus on consumer utility rather than the product itself.

healthcare appImage Source:

8. Smoking endangers the unborn

Most healthcare ads are filled with awareness campaigns against smoking. This one takes a more sardonic approach to warn smoking women against the dangers of smoking during pregnancy. Now this picture is worth a thousand words and highlights a sensitive issue with effective visual cues.

smoking killsImage Source:

9. Gambling is a serious addiction

An addiction is a health threat which is why drugs are condemned by learned societies. There is something else that is equally harmful but not recognized as such. Although gambling does not directly pose a threat to healthcare, it leads to mental problems that can eventually threaten lives. This is an excellent analogy to stress the point that people with this addiction also needs medical attention. Seek help if you know someone with this problem.

Gambling, addiction

10. Instant cure for runny nose

We all know what Kleenex is famous for. It was smart when they came up with hankies to cure runny nose but what’s brilliant is that they presented the product upgrade with visual storytelling technique. The nose color before and after will never go unnoticed. Besides the imagery, the color of the nose point out that the hankies have soothing balm over it.

runny nose

11. A stitch in time

When Dohler, a textile manufacturing company makes products especially for hospitals and health clinics, this is what their promotion looks like. The stitch with surgical gloves is the visual cue that makes the viewer’s mind wander for meaning.

“Visual cues are sensory cues received by the eye in the form of light and processed by the visual system during visual perception. Since the visual system is dominant in many species, especially humans, visual cues are a large source of information in how the world is perceived.”


12. Make every day a no smoking day

Smoking is a health hazard for active as well as passive smokers and this ad culminates the importance of avoiding this habit throughout the year. This visual give-away in the ad are the punctured holes in the calendar with cigarette stubs. This is an ingenious way to shake the cognition of people who tend to reason for smoking.

no tobacco dayImage Source:

13. Be an alert driver

We come across quite a few ads that warn us about the risk of rash driving. But how many of us actually pay attention to those ads? We skip right past them. Well this ad is one to remember. It goes out directly to the sleep deprived individuals who get too cozy in their car and run the risk of falling asleep while driving. Obviously they are a threat which is beautifully depicted in this print ad.

don’t drive sleepy

14. Drugs can ruin families

A drug addict is not the only victim. He’s a possible nuisance to all the people in his immediate circle. We can see that the ad is using negative reinforcement to bring to light a major issue. However, it is not targeting the immediate victim. It is challenging the secondary victims of drug addiction in order to nudge them into action. Since the drug addict is not in a position to decide, the immediate family member has to set the course right.

drug addiction

15. Protect your spine

A back injury of this magnitude can easily claim a life. The reality may not be as brutal but the slightest disturbance in your spine is painful as hell. The problem highlighted in this ad is that of weak bones or more accurately, brittle bones, caused by calcium deficiency. To enforce the idea, the ad creators have shown bones made of glass. Looking at this ad you wouldn’t have guessed, this is an advertisement for hi-calcium milk aiming to target people with weak bones and painful joints.

weak bones

16. We’ve got your back

This is the first example in this list of a verbal cue that uses a metaphor to catch attention. This was a billboard ad campaign that shows the back of the people who feel happy with the idea that someone’s taking care of them.

HIVcare ad

17. Organ donation can save a life

A life enclosed in an organ is a perfect way to show how organ donation can save a life. This is not the kind of message we come across every day. It’s a print ad that needs cognitive skills to identify the concept highlighted in this image.

organ donation adImage Source:

18. Now you can have time to spare

Imagine the amount of crevices in and around your dentine. Consumers having cavities will be able to create an immediate connection with this ad. It highlights the fact that these people constantly think about the food stuck in their teeth and try different ways to get it out. This print advertisement conveys the message that you will have time to think about everything else when there is no food stuck in dental cavities.

dental cavityImage Source:

19. Sanitizer is a clear winner

Wow, it’s rock paper scissors, a clear winner is scissors, against paper because scissors cut paper. But take a look at the analogy. This ad conveys the message that hand sanitizers cut germs and bacteria. You don’t need to be an adult to understand this.

hand sanitizerImage

20. Unwashed vegetable is a cesspool of deadly germs

How deadly can an unwashed vegetable be? According to this ad, it is compared to an atomic explosion. On closer examination, you will notice that it’s actually a mushroom. Does that ring a bell? Let’s elaborate. Some mushroom variants are poisonous and the germs listed at the bottom are responsible for food poisoning. Can you see the connection? Now the question remains is, was it deliberately intended to look like an atomic explosion? Share your thoughts.

food poisoningImage

21. Only you can set them free

Don’t you feel utterly disgusted after watching this one? Well that’s mission accomplished for the creators of this advertisement. The image highlights the problem without telling anything about the product but the tagline gives it away. The intention is to make the viewer uncomfortable which will serve as a stimulus. It invites active thinking, convinces the user to dig deeper about this brand of laxative, and it will definitely leave a memory.


Hope you found them interesting. Can you think of any other ads we can add here? Share your comments.

(n.d.). Retrieved from Startup Health:
Archer, S. (2015). Cognitive Psychology – How to Learn, Any Skill or Subject in 21 Days! CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 2 edition.
Cherry, B. K. (2015, December 31). About Health. Retrieved from ABOUT.COM:
Sensory Cue. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia:

Mehreen is a social media buff and design blogger, who keeps a keen eye on graphic design trends. She has a passion for experimenting with design ideas, and wouldn’t mind if it means going out of her way to find them in Timbuktu. Follow her on twitter for daily inspirations and findings.

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