Project Description

Derek, the new King of Hip-Hop

The Department of Health regularly launch pilot projects to assess future healthcare campaigns in practice in a small number of settings. Findings from the evaluations of these pilots feed into decisions about the future campaigns.

This pilot project was aimed at increasing the use of local pharmacies by 16 to 24-year olds.

Briefed to create a memorable and engaging campaign, I came up with a few creative routes. One of them centred around Derek, an ageing pharmacist who thinks he’s still ‘down with the kids’.


I mocked-up the ideas and met up with focus groups of young people to get their thoughts.


‘Derek’ emerged as a clear favourite. Using the feedback from the focus groups, it was shaped into a campaign across print, digital and social platforms.


This included branding that would be used across the campaign. Keeping it simple, I decided on ‘Think Pharmacy’.

I also created a riff on the ‘Parental Advisory: explicit content’ label to tie in with the hip-hop theme.


During my chats with the young people, it emerged that one of the reasons why they found it hard to engage with pharmacy services was embarrassment at having to speak to the pharmacist in front of other customers.

To address this, I designed the ‘Derek Sent Me’ card that could be silently handed across the counter to request a private consultation.


The campaign launched with a series of roadshows in the local area during the school holidays.


To add another layer to the campaign, I fulfilled a lifetime ambition and wrote the lyrics to a rap song.

Now, I’m no KRS-One, but Think Pharmacy is an absolute banger that includes some deeply spiritual lyrics about boils on your bum.

And the line ‘They wear the kinda clothes that you wouldn’t dig the garden in / Tyrannosaurus in a big grey cardigan’  is probably the greatest thing I will ever write. I honestly can’t tell you how proud I am of that.


As I can’t sing or rap to save my life, music students from Kidderminster College were signed up to provide vocals for the track. Unfortunately this meant that I had to go into the studio to record the guide vocal, possibly the most embarrassing ten minutes of my career.

I’m happy to say, however, that I nailed it in one take.



A video was also produced to accompany the track – although sadly I had very little to do with it other than managing to sneak Derek into a couple of scenes.


And so here it is, my musical claim to fame.

While it didn’t win the MOBO Award I was hoping for – would you believe the Best Video award went to Dappy ahead of this? – it generated a shedload of activity with over 3,000 online and 600 face-to-face interactions in the first week alone.

Although the MOBO eluded me – this time – the campaign did win the Using Technology to Improve Public Health Award at the West Midlands Excellence in Public Health Conference. It also provided the Department of Health with lots of invaluable insight to use in future public health initiatives.

Nice one, Derek.