Creating Great Creative

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Robin Robinson

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Market forces and patient expectations make coming up with the next big creative idea more challenging than ever.

In today’s patient-focused and patient-driven marketplace, it is going to take more than a purple pill, a green moth, or an Italian-accented bumblebee to make a connection with patients. Creative must go beyond entertainment, and provide support and services that influence consumer behavior all along the patient journey.

According to PwC, this next generation of consumers is reshaping the pharmaceutical industry much as they have transformed other industry sectors. Customers want their preferences and behaviors understood and acted upon. Consumers want their medication experience to be personalized and meaningful. If their expectations are met, they’re more likely to follow the proper course of treatment for longer.

Whether consumers are starting a new therapy, managing a chronic condition, or juggling multiple treatments, evaluating their needs throughout the patient journey is critical for delivering meaningful creative campaigns.

Some pharma companies, such as GlaxoSmithKline, are starting to integrate patients’ wishes to participate in their care and treatment decisions, by providing support and tools within the campaigns, to ultimately improve patient outcomes.

For example, GlaxoSmithKline and the Belgium ad agency These Days Y&R recently won a Best Pharmaceuticals Interactive award at the 2014 Internet Advertising Competition produced by the Web Marketing Association. The award was for its MyVaccination app and campaign, which aimed to deliver relevant information on vaccinations in a customized, innovative way. This meant the creation of a consumer-centered support platform named MyVaccination that helps end users to keep track of their vaccinations and receive reminders via SMS and e-mail. This new platform, which will be launched in several countries and languages, has already been launched in the Philippines. This campaign, which provides value beyond the pill and keeps the end user in mind all along the patient journey, will be an emerging trend in pharma marketing that is both effective and creative.

(For more information on the GSK app, go to

According to Heather Aton, chief innovation officer at Dudnyk, the patient as end user is driving the marketplace today and only the most influential brands have come to terms with this new dynamic.

“Companies need to realize that beyond all the other industry pressures that affect today’s marketing decision making, the patient needs to be at the center of every great marketing campaign,” Ms. Aton says. “There are opportunities for patient attitudes and behaviors to become more central to what drives overall marketing communications about a healthcare brand or therapy across categories.”

This inherently ties back to user experience and should focus on support or services or beliefs that patients and prescribers will value more than functional product features.

“Physicians have always been influenced by what their patients go through and this will become even more so with personalized medicine, as well as the Affordable Care Act,” she says. “Creative brand campaigns and content, whether targeted at prescribers, payers, or patients, should evolve to embody a sensibility that answers to the patient.”

The idea is to more clearly accentuate the fact that at the center of everything is a human being who deserves the best we have to offer, says Allen Stegall, executive director of strategy at Scout Marketing. The challenge, of course, is to do this in a distinctive way that is true to the differentiating strategy for the brand.

There has been a clear shift toward HCP campaigns that focus on the patient experience and the potential for an improved life.

“Increasingly, we find that value-added programs and services are also important parts of the story,” Mr. Stegall says. “If properly developed, patient support services can improve understanding, ensure proper drug utilization, and make patients and caregivers feel more connected with others who can truly relate to their situation.”

There was a time when the industry focused more on the condition than the patient, but those days are long gone.

“At that time, we developed programs that helped patients take their pills because we thought that was all they needed,” says Emily Tower, VP of strategy at AbelsonTaylor. “Creative campaigns were limited because we didn’t think beyond getting the brand to the patient. That’s not to say these programs weren’t important; they were. However, we didn’t take into consideration how patients actually live with their condition.”

The movement toward a patient-centric era is actually a move toward what should have been happening in the first place — digging deep to understand the customers and identifying how to best communicate and connect with them, she says.

Ms. Tower recommends leveraging digital tools — both online and offline — to tap into patient insights and develop campaigns designed not just to help them take their pills, but also to ultimately make their lives easier.

“Digital allows us to uncover not only how patients actually live with their condition but also who or what they turn to for information and who or what influences their decisions,” she says. “The results, of course, are creative campaigns that connect deeply with patients. I believe we can no longer look at launching creative brand campaigns without integrating digital.”

For Chet Moss, creative director at ICC Lowe, the key word to great creative is “journey.” Marketers need to reset their focus to include engaging the patient along the entire process — not just the treatment — by building relationships and communities around ongoing, shared information.

“What marketers need to strive for today is vigorous engagement on this patient-facing, data-portable, access-demanding patient journey,” he says. “This goes beyond merely silencing a symptom, but affords health management through valued, mutual interest.”

Patients often fall prey to daily triggers and relapse. A support program that buttresses their resolve to get well, that gives them the chance to dialogue with both peers and HCPs in moments of weakness, acknowledges the detours and crazy hairpin turns along their path provided through a mobile, readily accessed service at launch can optimize the pill even more, Mr. Moss says.

This new model will be challenging, but offers more opportunities to engage and build a stronger dialogue, according to Scott Watson, executive VP and chief creative officer, Ogilvy CommonHealth, part of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide. The challenge is that content needs to bridge from HCPs to a better informed patient. This requires thinking on a much broader and insightful scale, and an understanding that the audiences and their pathways to care have changed.

“We are speaking in a very precise, simple but effective manner that needs to appeal to this well-informed, online patient, while also making sure the physician is still an integral part of the conversation,” Mr. Watson says. “It is a delicate balancing act, which when done well, can bring tremendous results to audiences and clients.”

It’s a balancing act that is necessary in today’s marketplace, and marketers need to address a brand’s positioning between patient and physician early on so that messages will resonate with both, says Ken Ribotsky, president and CEO, Brandkarma. Another challenge marketers are facing is how the elements of a campaign will transfer from medium to medium, especially in the digital space.

“We always need to keep this online presence in mind because not all brand messages can be chunked down for easy online reading,” Mr. Ribotsky says. “It is harder to own a unique place online than it ever was during the early days of DTC when we were only primarily focused on television ads.”

The biggest challenge is not to alienate one or both of the target audiences by using the wrong language or tactics. Paul Harrington, senior VP, creative director, at Palio+Ignite, suggests the best scenario for a new product is to open with a high-science approach and then at launch or within a year, show how the drug can change lives. This is illustrated in the move away from quality-of-life work in the launch phase of a new therapy, and the new emphasis on more explanatory ads.

“Companies are delivering much more sophisticated therapies to the marketplace — SGLT2s in type 2 diabetes, STRs in HIV, oral MABs in the neurological space — and there’s an urgency to explain how these new complex regimens function to give HCPs a thorough understanding of them,” Mr. Harrington says.

“However, this push is both good and bad news for those of us in the marketing world: it’s good news because it challenges us to find a simple way to communicate a complicated premise; but it’s also bad news because the ultimate beneficiary of these new therapies — patients — can get lost in the mix. Great brands evolve over time; just like good wine, they get richer and deeper.”

Steven Michaelson, CEO of Calcium, says patients as brand advocates is another emerging trend being driven by two factors: patients taking more responsibility for their own healthcare and tighter professional marketing regulations, specifically The Sunshine Act.

“Patients are influenced by other patients who have gone through the same experience and patients talking to other patients has become a mainstay tactic to deliver a positive and actionable product message,” he says. “Patient advocacy has now become a new marketing/creative genre that is crucial to the marketing mix.”

Critical Elements of Great Creative

There is no magic bullet or formula for developing compelling, behavior-changing creative that will garner both physicians’ and patients’ attention and result in improved revenue for the company, but our experts share some critical elements they believe must be present to at least set the groundwork. Today, the challenge is further complicated by the myriad of media opportunities being used by consumers, increased regulatory scrutiny, and consumer expectation.

According to Ms. Tower, marketers need to adapt to consumers’ desire to access brands from a multiple-screen experience. For a campaign to be considered successful today, it needs to connect with consumers at the right time, in the right place, and at the same time on multiple screens.

“It’s no longer acceptable to execute creative campaigns with one-off tactics, such as a DTC broadcast spot, believe that the brand message resonated with the customer, and assume the journey to brand awareness is over,” Ms. Tower says. “That’s because consumers no longer experience brands in a single screen. If they see a product in a broadcast spot, they’ll quickly transfer that experience to the iPad or the smartphone to learn more.” Be brave: that’s Mr. Stegall’s suggestion. Grabbing attention in today’s over-communicated world is not easy, but you can improve your chances if a brave, unexpected approach is used, he says. “We believe that the first requirement of a creative campaign is that it gets noticed by the customer,” he adds. “Of course, once you have the customer’s attention you have to relate your central message in a relatively simple and memorable way. And we think this is best

It takes more than a big idea these days, says Mr. Ribotsky. Currently the big idea must also be accompanied by an in-depth view of the patient journey.

“We always work strategically to precisely map out the journey that we want patients to take,” he says. “We include all of the touch points, and wherever possible, specific plans for all of the communication interactions that we want them to encounter along their journey.”

The goal is to never lose those patients along the way and to guide them to make desired choices. A good creative campaign will also seek to engage patients in relevant ways beyond their treatment, so they can ultimately be transitioned into strong brand advocates who can positively influence other patients.

Movie star Jimmy Stewart always said “never treat your audience as customers, always as partners,” and Mr. Moss suggests marketers follow that advice.

“As partners you value and respect their time, their sensibilities, their willingness to share,” he says. “Today, success is about ideas that create user experiences for consumers and HCPs honoring what they already know, believe, and how they behave and then provide them meaningful, authentic reasons to act, when and where it’s valid for them.”

All marketers — especially creatives — can gain tips on the importance of simplicity from watching an episode of “Chopped” on The Food Network, Mr. Harrington says. Chefs are given baskets with a collection of seemingly unrelated items that they must combine into a delicious meal, upon which they are judged.

“The success of the chefs on the show illustrates that combining the ingredients without getting overly complex can make you a champion,” he says. “Less is more, every time, all the time. Simplicity is the secret ingredient in any good communication, whether selling Google Glass or glucagon-like peptides. Sadly, it’s the component that’s all too often forgotten. Some white space in an advertisement or CVA is a really good thing. A brief headline and subhead can be quite illuminating. A clean, simple, and powerful image will almost always beat a convoluted conceptual approach.”

A big idea on paper does not always translate well to a big idea on a smartphone, a tablet, or even a radio.

One of the biggest challenges in this multi-channel world is to get the message to the consumer wherever he or she wants to receive it. The big idea must engage and evoke the consumer as well as be versatile enough to work intelligently for that target almost anywhere, Ms. Aton says.

“Success will depend on the marketer having a crystal clarity regarding the intended target,” she says. “The campaign must answer to a well-defined insight about that target’s mindset and needs.”

Watch out for naysayers, Ms. Aton advises. “The subjective opinions of the wrong stakeholders too often cripple the prospect for a great creative marketing campaign,” she says. “Getting there really takes savvy and brave marketing decision making by the right group of brand champions.”

A more daunting task may be trying to find one campaign to reach all targets — a common assignment for agencies. Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to deliver a unified creative campaign to all audiences, so it is important to have the courage to determine whether or not it is feasible. This decision requires strong, validated audience insights with a deep understanding of their respective needs. For this reason, flexibility within the design of the brand experience is vital, according to Mr. Watson.

“A big part of today’s creative challenge is to reach multiple audiences, all of whom will be targeted with a singular brand promise or point of view,” he says. “Once you’ve committed to this course, the simplicity and strength of the story, beautifully executed, and tailored to work across a broad array of channels will give you the big idea that clients, agencies, and brands crave.”

In today’s fragmented marketplace, brands can’t afford to be creative for creativity sake. The big idea is under more pressure than ever to also drive revenues. “Creative isn’t creative if it doesn’t move market share,” Mr. Michaelson says. “The most important part of creative has to be effective message delivery to the target audience. To be successful, creative shops must be able to define the positioning and message and condense it into a core brand idea. Through that process lies the essence of sound strategic development that generates great creative.”

“Today, marketers need to strive for vigorous engagement along the entire patient-facing, data-portable, access-demanding patient journey.” Chet Moss / ICC?Lowe

“Simplicity is the secret ­ingredient in any good communication, whether one is selling Google Glass or glucagon-like peptides. ” Paul Harrington / Palio+Ignite

“Marketers should be ­developing ideas that create a pill-and-plan approach, in other words a creative ­package that offers a strong idea plus the supporting ­assets to ­deliver more powerfully in an ­innovative fashion. ” Scott Watson Ogilvy CommonHealth, part of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide

“Digital allows us to uncover what we need to know about ­consumers, resulting in ­creative campaigns that ­connect deeply with patients.” Emily Tower/AbelsonTaylor @emily_tower

“There are opportunities for ­patient attitudes and behaviors to become more central to what drives overall marketing communications about a healthcare brand or therapy across categories. ” Heather Aton/Dudnyk @HeatherAton “Patient advocacy has now become a new marketing/ ­creative genre that is crucial to the marketing mix.” Steven Michaelson/Calcium “Increasingly, we find that value-added programs and services are also important parts of the creative story. ” Allen Stegall Scout Marketing “A good creative campaign seeks to engage patients in relevant ways beyond their treatment.” Ken Ribotsky/Brandkarma

Tips For Creating Great Creative

Our experts provide tips for marketers faced with the challenges of creating effective, award-winning, behavior-changing, multi-channel, beyond-the-big-idea brand initiatives.

Heather Aton – Dudnyk
Great brand stories are built based on a cause or a movement, driven by values and purpose. Healthcare brands, even high-science ones, should be no different. Positioning is important, but brands are too often taken off track from the position they want to own because the communications focus is too narrow, limited only to pushing out messages and responses rather than truly engaging customers through experiential means.

Paul Harrington – Palio+Ignite
To borrow a line from Dan Rather in the 1980s: Courage. Certainly, Mr. Rather took a lot of you-know-what for the way he closed his newscasts back then — I think he only used it for a short time — but his intent was laudable. Let’s take some risks, shake off the catcher’s signal and throw what our gut tells us is right. No one ever submitted Everest in an elevator, or cured polio by asking a research group how to do it. A good dose of intestinal fortitude is required to make a difference or overcome a daunting obstacle. I think it’s far too tempting these days to accept mediocrity and focus group an idea to point of safe, bland old vanilla. My advice: be courageous.

Steven Michaelson – Calcium
No. 1: understand the customer — regardless of whether the audience is a professional, patient, or consumer. The key to successful messaging, creative, and tactics lies within this approach. Ultimately, this is the backbone of all marketing efforts.

Chet Moss – ICC Lowe
So with your right hand raised in the witness box, the court bailiff will ask: do you solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but —? You know how this phrase goes. You’ve either been in court recently or watched Law & Order: Special Advertising Unit. If you’ve done the latter, you should know the extremely high value placed on truth — truth as in trust. Truth as in being factual, genuine, real and authentic. We act this way because it helps us sleep better at night, look at our faces in the mirror first thing in the morning (yes, I know, often hard), and look at other faces throughout the day. It also helps allow your regulatory partners to do the same. Besides the moral, ethical, and legal aspects of functioning this way in society, it happens to be damn smart business. If you’re a healthcare marketer, you market things. And you market them to customers today who know and demand authenticity. They don’t want mock experiences. They have a sniff test for them and will readily talk about them with each other via at least 50 social media outlets in 50 nanoseconds. If you’re up front with what you’re all about, if you’re true to yourself, if you are what you say you are, then customers are more apt to be receptive to what you say, and receptivity equals tendencies to buy. Bottom line: in marketing, don’t be economical with the truth. Spend it freely.

Ken Ribotsky – Brandkarma
Don’t underestimate the power of the patient. Driving patients to the doctor is no longer the main goal. Today, it’s all about compelling them to follow through and fill their prescriptions. Allen Stegall Scout Marketing Innovation and utilization of unexpected strategies is still the most powerful force in marketing. Find a new perspective from which to view your brand’s situation.

Emily Tower – AbelsonTaylor
If I could give one tip to future marketers, it would be to remember to think beyond your product. Think about the customers, how they behave, and how they interact — both online and off. Most consumers don’t want a relationship with a product. They want a relationship with a brand that offers them something tangible, of value, and concrete. We’re inherently social creatures. We like sharing content that is relevant to us and want to recommend info to friends, families, and other network groups. In a few years, the relationship with brands will shift again because of new discoveries in technology, such as mass marketing of wearable products or new forms of communications. But if we keep our eye on what consumers truly want and develop impactful initiatives that connect with them, marketing to them should not be as confusing or as challenging as it is today.

Scott Watson – Ogilvy CommonHealth, part of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide
It’s a long healthcare season so it’s important to resist the temptation to do too much at one time. What I mean by this is, don’t try to change everything all at once to make sure we are leading the way in our industry. “We must get digital” is a phrase I have heard too much over the last few years. You risk rushing to keep pace with change while forfeiting those things that can still bring great success. I would suggest that you take the time to fully understand where you need to go and what you need to do. Identify those who have been integral to the past, for example, specialists of the science, and begin a thoughtful process of integrating the assets of innovation into your well-oiled, healthcare marketing machine. Take special care to integrate innovation. Don’t isolate it.

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