No Pain and Brand Building Gain for Voltarol




There are not many pain relief ads in anyone’s hall of fame. It’s a category where brands tend to take a very route-one, functional approach, since the consumer problem the brand is solving is so obvious. Someone feels pain, they use the brand, they feel better. There’s nothing exactly wrong with that… but it’s as generic as the cheap pain relief products those brands are having to battle against at shelf.

So credit to Voltarol for digging that little bit deeper to make a pain relief ad which feels meaningful. The ad isn’t doing anything different – the basic story of pain and relief plays out as expected over its 30 seconds. But it’s doing it better – asking more interesting questions. Who is feeling the pain? Why does it hurt them emotionally as well as physically? What does Voltarol allow them to do?

The result is a simple ad which still brings to life an individual and his world – the things that used to give him joy and (thanks to Voltarol!) can do so again. There’s a lovely visual simile underpinning the commercial: the guy is able to restore one old machine (his vintage motorbike) because he’s paying attention to another one (his body). And the whole thing is tied up with an invocation of freedom to move, the brand idea that sits at Voltarol’s core.

We’re often a bit wary at System1 of overarching brand ideas and “laddering up” to find some higher level a brand stands for. Big ideas should work as a spur to great storytelling, but often they act as a distraction from it, with the brand idea being shoehorned into an otherwise entertaining commercial like a “teachable moment” in a sitcom episode.

This Voltarol ad, though, is a good example of a brand using an idea well. The movement idea underpins the ad, but it doesn’t intrude on the story, which gets to be emotional and heartwarming in ways that reinforce the message. The result is a high 4-Star ad which comfortably outperforms its category on both long- and short-term measures.