Bryce Groves, Creative Director, reflects on a project he delivered while working with us at essence earlier this year. 

This brief was one of those tricky balancing acts. Ironically for a digital product, it was a completely analogue piece of creative – but one that became a lovely opportunity to do some good old-fashioned print craft.

Global pharmaceutical company Novartis has created Living Like You, a website designed to support people with Multiple Sclerosis. After a successful little magazine-ad campaign for their MS product, our local client was keen to promote the site to New Zealand patients so they could make the most of this great overseas-based resource. However with tighter local budgets and infrastructure for digital, the value of an experienced agency really comes into play.

The site itself has a variety of functionality and features, so the first challenge was how to convey all of them in a paper-based execution. The solution was classic advertising simplicity – just don’t! We zeroed in on a single aspect of the offering – the best way to drive a clear conceptual route.

Or to put it another way, stop stressing about how to say everything, and concentrate on saying one thing well.

That one thing was the MS Life Hacks series – 365 tips, tricks and tools to help with the day-to-day challenge of the disease and make it that little bit easier. Some are quirky, some are obvious, but it’s simple, quick and engaging. Plus an easy way to gently push audiences to delve into the rest of the site’s content.

Living Like You website

Turning clickable page elements into some form of engaging print was simple, in retrospect (good ideas usually are, we’ve found)


You can give them out in packs, put them on a rack at clinics, put them in tote bags at conferences…and obviously, send them to someone in the post. And done well, they’re an empathetic, tangible piece with more tactile value and cut-through than the likes of a magazine ad.

Seen in isolation from the site, the functional photography used to depict each Life Hack on Living Like You would have been uninspiring. So the second solution was to use illustration. With experience on MS-related products in both the UK and New Zealand, I felt that while it can be a terrible condition to live with, this was an opportunity to give patients something that would make them smile.

This is where the process really became collaboration, not just commerce. Illustrator Natasha Vermuelen not only brought her unique whimsical drawing style to the brief, but also her own ideas with a level of initiative and cooperation that really made the whole project shine.

If you’re putting lotion on your back, well of course you need to have a crab to hold the bottle!

Getting this type of upbeat tone into a piece of healthcare communications was a rare treat.

Beyond the postcards we also created bespoke packaging so that the community nurses (always the best barometer of tone of voice for patient communications) would be inspired too when receiving the packs from client. And from what we’ve heard so far, the reaction to this work from both nurses and patients has been fantastic.