By Amy Houston | Senior Reporter

April 28, 2023 | 5 min read

On this week’s Anatomy of an Ad podcast, we hear about the shocking ad that highlighted phrases many women have heard when expressing their pain to doctors.

Ruth Boulter is the creative director at McCann London. She has lived and breathed this project for the past 18 months, it’s safe to say it’s close to her heart. She tells us exactly what they mean when they use the term ‘gender pain gap’.

The team was predominantly made up of amazing women, she tells us. Some men too, of course, who have been huge allies. “We read The Unwell Woman by Elinor Cleghorn which is incredible. There’s been lots of talk within the culture about data bias and women being invisible.

“From listening to all that, we realized there was a huge gender gap in healthcare and particularly when it comes to pain ... We were also working with a brand that was brave, fierce and bold.”

Nurofen was amazing; Boulter recalls they were supportive from the get-go. She explains that when you’re pitching quite provocative work you need to be able to back your insights. Some of the slogans included in the campaign alluded to patients being dramatic, hormonal, or stressed out – none of which are actually helpful when dealing with illness.

“We didn’t want it to seem like we were poking at doctors or the NHS. It was always about society and gender bias, unconscious and conscious. That goes back forever.”

Finding allies within the healthcare community was pivotal. The biggest thing was that it was so much more than a campaign, they see it as a creative platform for change. “We believe it will change women’s lives.”

The creative laughs that during her time working in New York, she would always hear the phrase “you’ve got to have receipts” and it’s a sentiment she really took heed of during this project. Nurofen has the receipts, there’s a whole list of commitments from the brand she says. Listed on its website, the pharmaceutical brand pledges to make women visible in research, healthcare and products.

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“Someone put a piece on LinkedIn about this project and there was lots of support from both men and women in the comments. Apart from a couple of men who said, ‘You’ve got a typo, it’s the gender pay gap,’ which is the whole problem in a nutshell,” Boulter continues.

“It’s important to have a phrase that was clear about what this was. It’s probably more than a gap; in doing all our date research, it’s a pain chasm.”

To listen to the full episode, listen to the Anatomy of an Ad podcast here.

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