Learning to Speak Agency

Learning to speak agency Thumbnail 130x130When I started at my first agency, after 10 years at a medical journal, I knew there would be things I would need to learn. I knew the work would have a different focus, and there would be more people and more steps involved in going from manuscript to finished product. But I was not prepared for the flood of unfamiliar acronyms and jargon I encountered. Sure, I understood what a word-for-word (aka WFW or W4W) was, I knew that “stet” meant I had been overruled, and I could expand NCCN without even looking it up. But what in the world did “PRC,” “AFP,” or “CTA” mean?

Fortunately, I had extremely helpful team members and colleagues who got me up to speed on all the new terminology, and within a month or two I was rattling off cryptic acronyms with the best of them. But as I gained more experience in the agency setting, with different accounts, different clients, and eventually different agencies, I realized that even within the insular world of agency life, there was incredible variation. It’s only been five years (and three different clients) for me so far, but I’ve already heard more than six different terms used to describe the committee each client has to review work for medical accuracy, legal risk, and regulatory compliance. And what do we call those hardworking folks who take our beautifully constructed print and digital pieces out into the field? No, not “reps”—they’re COSs, FMLs, TBMs, AEs, ARMs, and probably hundreds of other titles I’ve yet to come across.

There’s not much we can do to stem the tide of terminology that comes at us from clients, regulatory bodies, professional associations, and our own organizations. Each agency, each client, each branch of healthcare, each disease state, comes with its own lexicon that we must master. We are in the business of communication, and so it falls to us to absorb the unique language we find ourselves awash in, and learn to harness its power and beauty to shape our clients’ messages in a way that will captivate, educate, and effect change.

Still, language doesn’t need to be an impenetrable barrier, keeping out the uninitiated and insulating the inner circle from the rest of the world. Let’s make sure we’re taking the time to explain unfamiliar terms to new team members, keeping tools like style guides and cheat sheets up to date and easily accessible, and above all, talking to each other—across accounts, departments, and disciplines—about what has worked for us, what our challenges are, and what opportunities we have to explore new paths and keep growing as creative entities. And don’t be afraid to ask questions—especially if you’re new. We promise, we won’t laugh when you ask what a “job bag” is.

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The Digital Health Revolution: Transforming the Patient Journey

The Digital Health Revolution Blog Image 2Around the world, one in every four people is using social media. Whether they are sharing a funny cat video, advice on dating, or their personal experiences living with a chronic illness, there are nearly two billion people connecting with one another through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social platforms, forever transforming the way humans communicate. This social media ecosystem also is ushering in a “digital health revolution.” Whether through their desktops, laptops, or mobile devices, people seeking medical and wellness information first check with their social networks.

Pharmaceutical companies have started entering the social media waters – — most with one toe in first. Given the increasing dependence on the digital world, social media is a natural touch point for companies to connect with the patients and healthcare providers (HCPs) they serve. Becoming truly social has not been an easy proposition for a conservative industry. But we have reached a tipping point, where social interaction is becoming critically important for the industry, and one that is blowing the lid off of the traditional way of communicating with stakeholders.

In the old paradigm, a pharmaceutical brand issues an advertisement that directs patients and HCPs to a website where they are provided one-sided information and an overall static experience. Patients are then directed to “talk to your doctor,” and that is where the interaction ends. Within the new social paradigm, patients, HCPs and pharmaceutical companies can have real conversations about the topics that are important to all of them. Patients also can access information and answers to their questions much faster, thereby making their path to help shorter.

Pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to interact with patients and HCPs in a more meaningful way through social media. At Ogilvy, we are helping our pharmaceutical clients navigate this new paradigm and create unbranded social networks that offer patients who have similar life experiences – — whether that is quitting smoking or managing cancer – — a safe and comfortable environment to listen, learn, and share. We believe these networks offer unique value to the industry, allowing companies to provide patients with a support system where such a community may not otherwise exist.

Social networks resolve the limitations of both time and geography that are inherent with in-person support groups. They allow people to access information targeted to their concerns and conversations with global peers at any hour from the comfort and privacy of their own couch. Social networks also empower patients to initiate and direct conversations, interacting in a way that is meaningful to them. These networks are already forming, and we believe it is vital for industry to take the lead, to serve as the connector of those conversations, and to interact so that patients are assured they are receiving the best quality and most credible information.

The social media world has clearly shifted communication patterns and habits. Pharmaceutical companies can no longer afford to remain disconnected. Social interaction and sharing will continue whether or not the industry gets more involved. By taking a more active role within these patient communities, a pharmaceutical company allows its own voice and expertise to be heard, provides its stakeholders with real value, and, equally important, ensures that competitors aren’t the only ones creating meaningful interactions and relationships with consumers.


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Is Print Dead?

4144823A lot has changed in print production since I entered advertising in 1987. Back in the day, printing was a form of art. A good printer was worth his or her weight in gold.

But how times have changed! Especially within the last four to five years. Art has taken a back seat, and it is down to price and speed. So what is a print buyer to do in this day and age? Is print going the way of the dinosaurs?

As I think about it, reviewing the latest research and trend reports, I have mixed feelings. I am a print person, I need it in my hand, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the digital world. It simply amazes me how far we have come since I started in this business. Google, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. You can find anything you need within seconds. How cool is that?

But hear this! Print is not dead and still has an important place. Just as radio did not bring the death of newspaper, and television did not bring the death of radio, online media will not kill off print media. A wise marketing plan must include a combination of both digital and print. Target your audience, apply segmentation, and adapt the resource allocation based on how your stakeholders prefer to receive their information. And of course, overlayed with analytics!

Print continues to have undeniable advantages over online advertising. It is narrowly targetable, highly personal, and credible to consumers. People trust the printed page. Audience specificity is guaranteed when trying to reach your customers.

In addition, print is tactile, a comfort food for the brain. Consumers are more engaged reading print, unlike websites, which are often skimmed in as little as 15 seconds. Studies have shown that people read digital screen text slower than printed paper and read less of it.

Technology is playing a vital role as well in print. Through the Ogilvy Innovation Lab and emerging technology, unique advances in printing—such as embedding video, QR codes and even adding smell into print—have not only made this channel more interactive, but more engaging as well.

Print is also relatively long-lived while being a solid vehicle for establishing brand identity. Print advertising will continue to be a viable component for an effective multichannel campaign. Understand your customers and how they want to receive information on your product by using the right vehicles:  real-time analytics will help inform your mix of online, print, collateral and event marketing to ensure your campaign is a winner.

So don’t ignore print. It still plays an important role in your brand’s promotional campaign. I just can’t help wondering how the next decade will affect the advertising world….

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The Cycle of DTC

blueskyThe history of DTC advertising (and by that I mean all consumer/patient outreach, not just TV), has seen a number of highs and lows over the years.

When campaigns first launched in the late ’90s and early 2000s, we watched as pharma marketers and their agencies worked to create brands out of medicines that, quite frankly, most users didn’t really want to have a relationship with.

During that time, we watched as Claritin and later Clarinex integrated graphics and special effects into their messages; we were introduced to critters including the Zoloft blob and Digger; we applauded the uniqueness of Vytorin’s “food & family” representation of the 2 sources of cholesterol. The Lunesta moth was heralded as iconic, while some of us scratched our heads over the story of Abe & the beaver as told by Rozerem.

The list goes on and on…. The point being, these were campaigns that sparked a reaction (good and bad), told a story, leveraged an insight, and by most accounts, helped our clients successfully market their drugs.

By the late 2000s, many of us noticed a perceptible shift in pharmaceutical campaigns. Some of this was coincident with a number of significant safety issues that prompted some of the major advertisers to pull back, and as more and more companies sought to “preclear” their ads through DDMAC and then OPDP, the feedback, in many cases in my experience, resulted in campaigns that while still engaging on some levels appeared to stop just short of eliciting any kind of emotion or reaction (again, good or bad). Our work still resulted in positive ROIs, it still won awards, but it just wasn’t the type of work that had people talking.

I’m happy to say that lately, the tide seems to be turning. Recent advertising for Crestor reinforces a positive brand experience by literally depicting a patient as a fan. A fairly light-hearted approach that still seems appropriate and responsible, still depicts the risks and benefits in a balanced manner, but one that evokes an emotional reaction, and presumably for Crestor users present and future, a connection with the brand. And campaigns like Novartis’ Gilenya illustrate how a brand can connect with patients—literally and figuratively.

Another positive outcome of this shift back to more emotive and insightful DTC appears to be a resurgence of more disease education. These campaigns are not only getting people to the doctor for appropriate medical advice and care, they are inspiring conversations and connections. Gilead’s “Full Frontal” campaign is provocative and buzz-worthy on the basis of its name alone…but the drama of the idea coupled with the real patient stories just increases the emotional impact and call to action.

So the next time a DTC ad turns up on your TV or Facebook feed…don’t skip it…you might be pleasantly surprised that DTC is back!

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True Integration of Excellence — the Key to Advertising Success

thumbnailAs the communication dynamic between doctor and patient changes, so too must the model of pharmaceutical promotions—offering a challenge for not only brand communications but also, critically, the agency that drives them.

Thirty to thirty-five years ago, in what some called the heyday of big pharma communications, the model was clear: sell to the doctor, everybody else in the system will follow the prescription. Today, communications must be exquisitely integrated across all channels to ensure receipt of a single and consistent brand message that will align understanding for all. A market where the presumption of even a compelling story of the drug benefits, aligned with a novel diagnosis, would have doctors falling over themselves to prescribe to their presenting patients has passed! Through the decades we have seen an accelerating shift from this—not least with the payer/insurer growing the influence of cost pressure and real evidence-based medicine—but perhaps more subtlety with the changing dynamic between the more savvy and informed patient and their own healthcare professional. As late as the 1980s the primary source of specific medical information for a patient was from their doctor. This moderated a level of control not only in understanding of disease but importantly in the awareness of available treatment options. Today, surveys have consistently indicated that more than half of patients will seek an alternate opinion on a doctor’s diagnosis or recommendations. Surveys reported from Pew Research have indicated that the online medical information services, Google, webMD, medicine.net, NetDoctor, etc, have become the de facto second opinion (and, increasingly often, initial diagnosis) for many patients seeking healthcare information. Balance this with the increasing limitation of the pharma industry presenting similar information to the doctor—through restriction of access by representatives—and we recognize the tension in the market space that must be met to ensure the HCP and their patient remain fully and appropriately informed on drug treatments and medical information. Branded communications must operate in this evolved environment—and the agency of the future likewise.

I joined the team here some 100 days ago, and it is clear Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide stands uncommonly aligned with this demand, with an ability to deliver excellence on communication service across channels from one single business footprint. This is clearly a differentiating feature owned by OCHWW. In a market where single-channel communications have become more and more commoditized, the agency that can truly deliver an integrated communications program will lead. James Chase, Editor in Chief at MM&M, commented in an interview a year ago that “the agency of the future would be able to align communications from one point. To deliver a relevant and targeted  brand message to the HCP, the patient, the payer and all of the relevant stakeholders in a way that offers a seamless understanding of the brand, and that will be the reason for its choice—above others.” This doesn’t mean driving a one-size-fits-all approach to messaging and communications. Quite the reverse! It demands building communications in which each customer will see his own nirvana, but will all appreciate this around a single brand hub. In the savvy patient marketplace it is critical that when the patient asks about a treatment or solution in his/her disease management, their appreciation must clearly vocalize the same entity that the HCP is considering, though not necessarily for the same reasons. The agency that is able to deliver that for brands is one where borderless collaboration of Professional, Payer, Patient and Consumer can build a seamless alignment of brand communications to ensure optimal impact in-market, and drive consistency of a singular message through all media—digital, social, traditional or personal. Few agencies or communication networks have the capability, or indeed passion, to do that.  The OCHWW philosophy of creative excellence in communications demands that each of our agencies across the globe and across customer and media communications channels work in harmony—aligning a core strategy to drive impactful creative that is designed to change customer behavior across all communications channels. The structure here is wonderfully built to achieve this, but at the end of the day it relies on a personal commitment to achieve this success. In a market that demands the agency of the future, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide is set to offer itself to meet the new communications challenges. Our success, however, depends on the most critical asset of any agency…you!

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The Parent Factor—How to be a Good Daughter and Pharma Marketer

Patient Doctor ThumbnailWhen my mother was recently diagnosed with COPD, I thought I could help her. We had worked on the gold-standard treatment for a decade, knew the data, the leading clinicians in the field and the course of the disease. However, knowing the answers is one thing, effectively communicating them to a parent is quite another.

Two main hurdles hadn’t occurred to me. Forgive my sweeping generalisations, but I think these may apply to a lot of people of her generation.

Firstly, she has entrenched, hierarchical viewpoints when it comes to receiving health information, namely:

  1. Whatever I say is of no consequence—I am not a medic, I’m her child.
  2. Whatever the nurse says is of no relevance—she is “insolent” and shares anecdotes about her own mother’s illness, which is “inappropriate.”
  3. Despite having a “machine” (MacBook Air), searching the web for relevant information, tools or support doesn’t occur to her.
  4. Whatever the doctor says is sacrosanct (hierarchy is everything), but she’s unlikely to remember it.

Secondly, obtaining an accurate account of what had been discussed during her many consultations was almost impossible. Precise questions such as, “Ask them to give you your FEV score” were met with vague responses: “They wouldn’t give it to me, they said they think it’s that thing—emphysema—they explained what the blood tests were for but I can’t remember what they said,” etc., etc.

Trying to interpret patchy feedback from the consultations was frustrating, especially when it was further confused by her misconceptions. At one stage, she said they thought it was asthma, but this was an assumption she had made because they had prescribed an inhaler which she equates with asthma. My mother is an intelligent woman—it’s just hard to listen and remember everything when you are scared and confused. And the more I speak with her, the more evident it is that she doesn’t understand the disease or the need for treatment: “I’m going to go back and find out just how long they expect me to use this medicine” and “What happens if I don’t take it?”

I spend my working week devising new, innovative ways of communicating health messages to patients—via the media, apps, crowd-sourcing communities, videos, Vine, Twitter—you name it, we’ve done it, but what I’ve learned from this personal experience is that sometimes there is no substitute for clear advice provided directly by an HCP.

What my mother needs is a consultation with a doctor in which he or she clearly explains:

  • The disease
  • The role of treatment
  • The consequences of nonadherence
  • The outlook

All could be covered in a short conversation, but this needs to be given by the doctor and backed up with written information.

My final thought is, wouldn’t it be great if there was a network of impartial adults—call them consultation buddies—available to accompany people to their healthcare consultations and take notes on their behalf? Not to aid diagnosis, but to aid understanding by capturing the relevant information in written form.

If anyone is interested in starting a consultation buddy business, call me!

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Introducing Once-Monthly Tournamax?

Basketball PersonSo, like most of us, my experience spans multiple therapeutic areas. I’ve worked in the field of Rheumatology. Created campaigns in Oncology. Produced TV spots, print ads and RM programs in Pulmonology, Gastroenterology and Dermatology.

But I’ve been thinking over the last few weeks, what if our industry expanded to yet another fast-growing scientific field that sweeps the nation every year: Bracketology.

I’m sure someone, somewhere, is working on the drug to help. Therefore, I’ve taken the liberty of preparing the TV script so we’re locked and loaded for the DTC launch.

Open on the appropriate and ubiquitously RC-friendly activity of a Big Dance. An announcer would say…

Announcer: If you’re a college basketball fan and suffer from sleepless nights, indecision making your picks and general anxiety at the start of spring, you could be suffering from March Madness.

Once-monthly Tournamax can help. Only Tournamax provides clarity and faith to help you identify potential upsets, make sense of any Missouri Valley Conference entries and avoid a complete bracket implosion. And it’s not a steroid.

Tournamax is not for golf aficionados. Side effects may include sweaty palms during the Final Four, nausea if your alma mater loses early, and swollen egos. Tournamax can lead to random screams of “go” followed by a color, most commonly blue and orange. If a 16-seed beats a 1-seed, stop taking Tournamax immediately and contact your doctor.

It’s your bracket. It’s your office pool. It’s your Tournamax.

I’m telling you, if we can launch brands for Thrombocytopenia Purpura in Hematology, we got this.


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The Ultimate Health App Road Test

As someone with a self-confessed addictive personality, I am a fully paid-up app junkie.

MobiHealthNews’ latest report, Consumer Health Apps for Apple’s iPhone, predicts that by summer this year there will be over 13,000 consumer health apps. Indeed, a casual glance through the Apple Store reveals countless apps to help you quit smoking, improve your diet, gain a six pack and better your running technique.

But amidst the countless options available, what are the ingredients required to make a useful, effective health app? Are the most successful apps of the moment underpinned by genuine medical and scientific thought? In our industry, we are finding that clients are becoming increasingly fascinated with apps, and it is becoming more and more important to ask ourselves these questions.

As someone with a self-confessed addictive personality, I am a fully paid-up app junkie. I have apps for everything: apps that tell me when the next bus arrives so I don’t have to wait for longer than two minutes in the rain; apps that allow me to listen to the entire Spice Girls back catalogue without needing to purchase a single song; apps that convert my appalling photography into masterworks that Annie Leibovitz would be proud to call her own. I’ve been known to wake early in the morning and claw at my iPhone with feverish impatience, desperate to find out if Suliman23 has correctly identified the sketch of a meerkat I scribbled badly the night before. I have bought books, clothes, maps, games, even kitchenware via smartphone apps. Some would call it an obsession.

For better or worse, apps have changed the way I live my life. They have made travel, for example, much more efficient. I can use apps to find a restaurant in an unfamiliar part of town and hail a taxi home when one of my other apps tells me the train line is down.

But apps have also provided an unwelcome avenue of procrastination. If, as a young boy, I had known my adult self would spend hours catapulting virtual birds at small clusters of hideous green pigs, I would have been aghast. Apps can have a stultifying effect on your creative consciousness, robbing your imagination of thinking time by enslaving you into hours of Luddite poking and clawing.  Why read Proust when you can spend half a day trying to slice a rhombus into six equal parts?

It is for this reason that I want to stop using apps to waste time, and see if I can use them to make positive changes to my lifestyle. As someone who prefers the sofa to the gym, who could cut down on eating and drinking, and should definitely quit smoking, it’s about time I started looking after myself.  Over the next few weeks I am going to road test a variety of consumer health-related apps to see if they really have the transformative power they claim; and ultimately to see if they make me a fitter, healthier and happier person. I’ll be looking to identify what makes a health app effective as well as investigating the companies that make them and their expertise in the field. I’ll be providing blog updates along the way, so please watch this space.

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A “Credit Score” for Medication Adherence?

In June of 2011, FICO—originator of the credit score in 1956—introduced a medication adherence score model that predicts patient adherence to prescription medications. Approximately 3 million Americans were to have an adherence score by the end of 2011 and an additional 10 million are expected to have one by 2012.  If proven a predictor of adherence, this new score has the potential to revolutionize prescription drug marketing and may have sweeping implications for the insurance industry.

Most Americans are familiar with credit scores—often referred to as FICO scores. The FICO scoring system was created by Fair Isaac and Company and is used to predict the likelihood of a consumer to repay a loan. The lower the FICO score of the consumer, the greater the risk of default to the lender.

Years ago FICO scores became a key tool for banks and financial institutions in marketing credit cards and loans. What quickly became apparent was that the consumers with the lowest scores were generally the most responsive to credit offers.

The FICO score revolutionized credit by enabling lenders to reach a balance between risk and an acceptable cost to acquire new customers. The score eliminates the time and expense of marketing to potentially inappropriate consumers or to those unlikely to respond. It also short-cut the amount of information needed for lending decisions, spawning “instant credit” and rapid approval of auto loans. In a similar way, a medication adherence score could alert a healthcare provider immediately if a patient is at risk of being nonadherent, so appropriate steps to improve their adherence can start early.

Medication adherence is a major issue for patients, employers, managed care and pharmaceutical companies and is a multibillion-dollar problem in the US. A score that predicts medication adherence can help pharmaceutical companies in two key ways:

  • For brands with medication adherence programs, they can target the programs to patients who actually need help with medication to more efficiently produce better healthcare outcomes
  • New patients can be acquired who are more likely to be adherent to medications

This is all good. But where banks and financial institutions found that the FICO credit score became a predictor of responsiveness to direct marketing, it is not yet known if the medication adherence score will have a similar predictive quality with respect to direct marketing. It is also to be determined whether a medication adherence program delivered to patients who have a score is more effective at increasing medication adherence vs. traditional programs delivered to patients without a score.

In managed care, there is continual pressure to make patients more accountable for their health and well-being, and the adherence score has the potential to stratify insurance pricing based on adherence. It could be used to exclude patients from coverage much like credit scores are used in underwriting property and casualty insurance, and also has the potential to impact how life insurance is underwritten.

Early adopters will be the first organizations to start reaping the benefits of medication adherence scores to improve patient healthcare outcomes and strengthen their brands. When it comes to medication adherence scores, is your company making things happen or watching what happens?

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When Designing for the Web, Less Is More

As a user experience professional, I am puzzled when I hear people say that web users want choice, or that the more options a web design gives people the better.  On first glance this might seem like an obvious and intelligent approach. Why wouldn’t people want more choice, especially in situations where there are many equally compelling options available? Shouldn’t more options help people make a more informed decision? Won’t it result in better decision making? The answer to these questions is a resounding NO.

Barry Schwartz’s well-regarded book, The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less, addresses the upside of pursuing a strategy of eliminating excessive options when designing for people. In sum, his point is that too much choice results in decision-making anxiety, dissatisfaction and regret when one is buying a backpack, purchasing insurance or shopping for a new car. Schwartz’s thesis can be neatly summed in four key points about the effects of giving people too many choices:

1.    It Causes Decision Paralysis—For example, employee participation in 401(k) savings plans goes down as the number of plan options is increased (2% drop for every extra plan option).

2.    They Lead to Bad Decisions—This holds true even if someone manages to get out of the decision-making paralysis brought on by excessive choice.

3.      It Can Cause Post-Decision Anxiety—In the event someone’s choice is not satisfactory in any respect, they will regret their decision and persistently ask themselves: “Perhaps the other choice would have been better?”. This is that well-known feeling of buyer’s remorse that I’m sure we have all felt before.

4.      Are Good If—people know exactly what they want, there is one or very few changing variables, and the various options are easy to compare and contrast.

Think about this in terms of going out for ice cream. Everyone has a favorite flavor—mine is chocolate. When I go out with my family, I’m usually buying ice cream for three people. When it’s time to order, my wife and son both make their decisions (which 9 times out of 10 is their favorite flavor) and I get chocolate.

Very recently, at a Ben & Jerry’s, I ordered a chocolate ice cream and was presented with the question: “What kind of chocolate ice cream do you want?”

Now in my head the response was: “What do you mean? I want the chocolate kind.”

What I’d actually responded with was: “Well, what do you have?”

The response was absolutely mind-numbing: Chocolate Therapy, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Greek Chocolate and, finally, Chocolate.

Now I was completely dumbfounded. At this point I felt as though I needed to become a sommelier of ice cream. Of course I wasn’t going to order plain chocolate; I’m a far more unique individual than that. But, as my family was with me, I didn’t have the time to taste all four flavors. So I self-segmented myself into the boring group. And I left feeling pretty bad about myself for having made what I felt to be the wrong decision.

While there is no bad choice when it comes to ice cream, that, unfortunately, is not always the case. When it comes to making important and high-consideration decisions like those we frequently deal with in health care, it is safe to say that the more choice that we give people the less likely they are to make an optimal and satisfying decision. As a rule, then, we should seek to give people a streamlined experience that informs them in a way that is not confusing or overwhelming and that directs them to choose a specific option.






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