The Lessons Marketers Can Learn From The Worst Medicine Adverts

Feb 24, 2022

The world of medical advertising and pharmacy web design is about ensuring customers and medical professionals can make an informed choice about whether a product is right for them.

In the UK, adverts for medicines and medical devices are regulated by the Advertising Standards Agency, prescription medicines cannot be advertised directly to patients and in most cases, an advert is a relatively clear explanation of what a medicine does, sometimes with extra visual flair.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case, but with every marketing failure, there is a lesson to be learned, and here are some of the important lessons marketers can take from some of the worst adverts from around the world.


One of the most important marketing goals is to keep your advert simple, straightforward and to the point. However, you can take this principle of minimalism too far, as was seen with the infamous case of HeadOn, a topical headache reliever.

When watching the advert, which ironically is so loud and repetitive that it causes headaches, it is difficult to ascertain exactly what HeadOn is, only that they are so insistent that you apply it directly to your forehead that it repeats the phrase three times.


A concern that many brands will have is negative brand association, where a brand’s name or video iconography bears a resemblance to a controversial or negatively perceived group or event.

Corona Beer saw its sales drop after March 2020, but possibly the worst example of how to react to this is the diet sweet Ayds.

As it bore a phonetic resemblance to the HIV/AIDS disease that was becoming a pandemic in the 1980s, and how both a symptom of the disease and the aim of the product was significant weight loss, there was a significant connection between the two that needed to be broken quickly.

However, the company believed the association was initially helpful and that the disease should change its name and not them.

Although they eventually changed to Aydslim and later Diet Ayds in 1988 due to the sweet’s sales halving.


The multivitamin Centrum tends to keep it simple with its marketing, with an explanation of the product on a bright backdrop.

However, a version of the advert made for the Chinese Market managed to be fairly confusing and oddly sinister, despite starring Tom Hiddleston.

The awkward first-person perspective video, complete with odd pauses, whole seconds of silence and a rather firmly placed bottle of Centrum made the advert confusing and mildly threatening, rather than an explanation of how a product might help you.