Tuesday Tonic: Mary doll’s breasts

{Tonic: (noun) something with an invigorating effect}

So here we are, finally, in bonnie Scotland!

To celebrate, I thought I’d share a great breast cancer awareness video with you that was produced right here in Scotland. Created by The Leith Agency in Edinburgh (famous for their Irn Bru adverts) it features Elaine C Smith, none other than Mary doll. Long suffering wife of the notorious Rab C Nesbitt.

Like all great campaigns, it even inspired a spin-off video:

What I love about this campaign is it’s honesty. It’s engaging, informative and *shock, horror* actually uses real breasts to convey a very important message. No airbrushing, no clever lighting, just everyday boobs in all their various shapes and forms. It also taps into the Scottish sense of humour, drawing attention to an important issue with some lighthearted banter.

Well done The Leith Agency, solid proof that you don’t need to be based in London to have access to some of the best creative talent in the UK.

News, Opinion

Tuesday Tonic: Dog days

Chocolate eggs were found in abundance at Highland Tonic Towers this weekend, I hope everyone had a lovely extended weekend?

On Friday, we’re moving to our new HQ, leaving London town behind and relocating north of the border. Highland Tonic HQ will finally be in the Highlands of Scotland but normal service will resume by Monday 8th April.

Meanwhile, I wanted to share this with you. I’m loving this print campaign by MINI to celebrate being the car behind the highly successful SPCA Driving Dogs campaign in New Zealand. Clean, simple and makes the viewer work for the pay-off. Love it.

Dogs Choose Mini.

For the rest of the campaign by Draftfcb Auckland go to: http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2013/dogs-choose-mini/#.UVnxvVtoQXV

Any favourites you would like to share? Come on now, don’t be shy!


Tuesday Tonic: Bashing Big Pharma

{Tonic: (noun) something with an invigorating effect}

Unless you’ve been living in seclusion in a cave somewhere in the Himalayas for the past few months, it would be pretty difficult to miss all the Big Pharma Bashing that’s been going on in the media recently.

From Ben Goldacre to the BMJ, it seems like everyone has jumped on the Big Pharma bashing bandwagon.

Yes, there is a need for transparency. Yes, there is a need for honesty around trial data. I don’t think anyone can deny that.

But what about all the good stuff? Big Pharma today isn’t just about the drugs anymore. It’s not enough. New Clinical Commissioning Groups want more than just a drug. They want value for money and assurances that the drug they’re being ask to include on their formularies does more than simply alleviate symptoms. So in response, there’s funding for nurses, educational materials, CPD programmes, apps to help patients track their symptoms, websites and online resources for patients and carers….the list goes on.

Ah, but all these extra resources are part of the problem I hear you cry. How can doctors make honest prescribing decisions when they’re influenced by all the extra razzamatazz?

Let me ask you this: Do we hold the intelligence of doctors in such low regard that we think they’ll overlook hard clinical facts? Do we think they are really so easily swayed by some pretty pictures in a glossy brochure?

Never, in 12 years, have I ever worked on a project that stretched, bended or distorted the ABPI Code of Conduct. Projects are always scrutinised, from every angle, to ensure they provide a balanced view and do not bring the industry into disrepute. Every word is carefully chosen and if it can’t be substantiated by trial data, it’s removed. Data on file is swiftly becoming a thing of the past and robust, double-blind clinical trials are the norm (as it should be of course).

Sure, I’ve sat in meetings where there’s been very little, if no talk of patients. Plenty of talk about market expansion and widening the pool of customers, changing prescribing behaviours and finding new ways to convince doctors that this drug is the dogs wotsits. But there are pharma companies out there that try to put patients at the heart of their business. That strive to improve the lives of the patients their drugs are designed for.

And really, if Big Pharma doesn’t fund the education programmes, the conferences, the extra nurses, the patient support materials, the adherence programmes, who will?

The NHS can’t afford to, that’s for sure.

What say you: Are you on the Big Pharma Bashing bandwagon? Or do you believe that without Big Pharma the NHS will fail to thrive? Can Big Pharma invigorate the NHS?


Friday frolic: More on malaria

 {frolic: (verb) playful, excited, energetic}

A bit of a serious subject for the Friday Frolic today, but as it’s Red Nose Day, I thought a continuation of the malaria theme was fitting.


Right, I’m off to wear my pants on my head and spend money at the local school’s Red Nose Day cake stall (buying back all the fairy cakes I baked last night).

Have a great weekend everyone!


Tuesday Tonic: Spend a pound, save a life

{Tonic: (noun) something with an invigorating effect}

How much do drugs cost? Have you ever thought about it? It costs millions to develop some drugs, but some drugs are worth much more than their monetary value.

In the UK, nearly £2 billion each year is spent on the treatment of heart disease. £5.6 billion is spent on healthcare costs for the treatment of cancer. It costs a lot to treat people who are sick.

But what about a disease like malaria? How much do you think is costs to treat a disease that kills 660,000 people every year? How much does it cost to treat a disease that kills a child every single minute? A pound. One single British pound. £1. That’s all that it costs to buy the drugs needed to save a life.

The World Health Organization estimates 3.3 billion people (half the world’s population) are at risk from malaria, with approximately 250 million cases and nearly one million deaths every year. Yet, it’s a disease that is preventable and treatable. The problem is, the vast majority of people at risk live in the world’s poorest countries. £5 for a mosquito net may not seem much to us – sacrifice 2 cups of coffee on  your morning commute and you’ve covered it – but to a family trying to survive on less than £1 a day, it’s a lot of money.

This Friday, it’s Red Nose Day in the UK. The money raised helps Comic Relief support many projects devoted to tackling malaria.

Just £5 is all it takes to hang a mosquito net that 2 people can sleep under. £5 to save 2 lives. Donate now. It really is that simple.


Tuesday Tonic: Remote doesn’t mean distant

{Tonic: (noun) something with an invigorating effect}

So with my relocation to a far-flung corner of Scotland imminent, I thought a little post about the benefits of remote working was called for.

Remote working works. I already know this, but how can I convince you of this too?

How many of you use email on a daily basis? Hands up now. No hiding. How many of you use conference calls with clients to save time travelling to their offices? All of you I’d guess. Email synced to your iPhone or Blackberry? Me too! So already, you’re using tools to communicate with clients and suppliers that are not on your doorstep. But email and conference calls are just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg when it comes to remote working.

In the past, I’ve used Skype to work on concepts with an art director. The video facility meant that we could share our scamps and bounce ideas off each other ‘face to face’. He was only on the other side of London at the time, but he could just have easily have been on the other side of the world. Skype also has a nifty function that allows you to share your desktop, a feature that came in very handy when I was discussing my portfolio with the creative director of an agency in New York one evening.

But Skype isn’t just for video calls. You can use it to conduct group conference calls too. Just last week I received a brief from a creative director sitting in his study in south London, while his creative services director drove the call from her sofa in north London. I was in my kitchen in sunny Surrey at the time, but we were able to go over the brief in as much detail as we needed without leaving the comfort of our homes. No travel time or expenses, no meeting rooms to be booked. Just a simple Skype group call. We didn’t even switch on our web cams, so they could have been dressed in their pyjamas for all I knew (don’t fill in the details if you’re reading. It would spoil the mystique).

But if face-to-face meetings is your thing and you insist on it, that’s not a problem. As well as Skype, there’s FaceTime via iPhone or iPad and Google+ hangouts to explore. Both of which are free (hurrah!).

So remote, doesn’t have to mean distant. The world is connected, to quote Richard Branson and if all this talk of VOIP and video conferencing makes you nervous, there’s always the good old fashioned telephone.

But what other tools do I use to make sure remote working works? Google Drive and DropBox are my new best friends. Google Drive lets me share documents and calendars with clients, giving us both editorial control over a piece of work. Everything is cleverly stored in the Cloud, easily accessible whenever you need it and safe from flying cups of coffee.

DropBox on the other hand is where I store my large files. Portfolio pieces, reference packs, background information. I can access it on my laptop, my iPad or my iPhone, so if you ever lose that copy of the Annual Report from the Chief Medical Officer, I can send it over to you with just a couple of clicks.

In 2013, with such a wealth of digital tools available for free that make meetings and networking possible on a global scale, do you really need me sitting in the creative department eating your biscuits? Working from Scotland means I can charge lower prices. My overheads are lower, so I pass that on to you. But my work ethic and standard of writing remain intact. It also means you only pay for the hours you use. If a piece of work takes me 3 hours, that’s what I invoice. So you don’t need to worry about booking a copywriter for a whole day and have them twiddling their thumbs for an hour while a brief is put together.

So, how about we try this remote working lark? If you hate it, I’ll send you biscuits to compensate. Now how’s that for an invigorating thought?

Biscuit anyone?
Biscuit anyone? If you try to fit a whole one in your mouth, I’m not sure how invigorating that would be to be honest…but let’s do a Google+ hangout to check!

Tuesday Tonic: Sharing is caring

{Tonic: (noun) something with an invigorating effect}

Back in school, hiding your work from class mates was an integral part of the day. Essays were furiously scribbled behind arms shielding A4 notepads, science projects were conjured up beneath a veil of secrecy. Nothing was volunteered until it was committed to paper and approved by the teacher. The fear of somebody stealing your ideas was cultivated and encouraged to thrive and went hand in hand with the fear of teenage rejection.

But now that we’re all grown-ups, working in isolation is not such an appealing prospect. It’s too easy to get caught up in the minutiae of a project when you’re up against a deadline. Too easy to forget the bigger picture. Which is why sharing your thoughts, processes and work can be a great way to get out of a thinking rut. It feeds your creative brain cells and helps you grow and learn. Sharing and bouncing ideas off of other people can help nurture creativity and lead you in new directions you never thought of.

Yes, it’s daunting, but it can also be pretty exciting. Take this blog for example. Knowing that people all over the world can find me here, read these posts and react to them was pretty terrifying when I started out. What if everyone hated it? Could I stand the rejection? Did I have a thick enough skin? I decided if I didn’t, it was time I learnt to grow one.

So how do you share your work as a freelance copywriter? For me, this blog is the starting point. Working in healthcare, it’s not always appropriate or permissible to share my back catalogue online. So instead, I’m sharing examples of my writing here. But I’m also a sociable bee and you can find me on Google+, LinkedIn, twitter and as from today, dipping my toe in the clear, sparkling waters of Creativepool.

But why do I need them all? What’s the benefit of one over another? Here’s my take on what each social network has to offer someone like me:


It’s the new kid on the block, all the cool kids are using it. It’s strength, is in it’s reach. I can find designers, art directors, photographers, app developers and digitally savvy people on there as quick as I can type their name into the search box. The communities are a useful feature and it’s easy to see at a glance which ones have active members. Then there’s Hangouts. These can be used for a bit of fun, as a teaching tool or to collaborate with other creatives. I share blog posts, take part in conversations and discover and share new sources of information.


Facebook for the professional me. It lets me build a network of professionals from within the pharma advertising world and check in with other freelancers. It helps people remember me and me them. It’s my digital little black book. I share relevant news, availability and play matchmaker when I can do other freelancers a favour.


Immediate. That’s Twitter’s strength. And concise. Everything I need to know in 140 characters. Good practice for writing short, snappy sentences with impact if nothing else. But it’s also a portal to a whole world of information and knowledge. I share stuff I find interesting that I stumble upon, facts and updates, social media campaigns that grab my attention and interact with other freelancers and pharma ad types.


This one I just discovered recently and only completed my profile on this morning. But a quick look around revealed some nice content that I’m looking forward to exploring more. It looks like it’s going to be a more creative environment to build connections in than LinkedIn, so I’m eager to go back and explore more. I share not much more than my profile at the moment, but as I learn more about Creativepool I’m hoping to share some awesome looking creative work.

What about you? Where and how do you share your work? Come find me on any of the above networks and let me know. Don’t be shy!