Editor’s note: This story is part of our 2022 PharmaVoice 100 feature.
Kim Johnson’s 25 years in pharma, health and wellness marketing reads like a “who’s who” of big drug campaigns, from Celebrex and Chantix with Pfizer, to Otezla with Celgene, to the oncology portfolio at Amgen.
So when she took the Global CEO job at Ogilvy Health after serving as executive vice president at its parent company WPP, it was with the intention to “blaze a new trail” at the agency.
Spoken like a true visionary.
Since she’s taken on the role, Johnson has already lived up to that intention, shoring up the executive leadership team and adding more than 100 new employees this year to date as part of Ogilvy’s 2022 Impact Plan after several years of turnover among leadership and staff.
“We're doing such meaningful work in partnership with our world-class clients. So that keeps me inspired every day as I look forward,” she says.
She’s the kind of leader who energizes her coworkers; her nominator calls her “fearless,” “kind,” a “breath of fresh air” and someone who possesses a “ferocity of courage.” But for Johnson, being a “visionary” is about looking “out to the future with some wisdom, with some insight and also a fair dose of imagination.”
Part of Johnson’s wisdom comes from her experience working for clients, patients and healthcare professionals across therapeutic categories including HIV, hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and cancer, among others, as well as rare diseases like cystic fibrosis, which she finds “personally gratifying.”
“That gives us wisdom. It gives us insight into the needs and the motivators, the barriers, how decisions are made and what ultimately positively impacts behaviors and outcomes, which is what we're all striving for,” she says.
But wisdom alone isn’t enough to be a visionary.
“I think it also needs to be coupled with the imagination to see things differently,” she says.
This approach has translated into her efforts around striving for greater health equity and patient empowerment, as well as harnessing the power of digital health.
Those values are inherent in some of the accomplishments she considers especially meaningful, such as Ogilvy’s work with Dove on the Cannes Lions Gold award-winning “Toxic Influence” campaign that tackles toxic beauty advice and being personally involved with training and mentoring young leaders through the Healthcare Businesswomen's Association.
Yet, even when pressed to talk about herself and her achievements, Johnson manages to turn the conversation outward to the people around her. When reflecting on her quarter century in the industry, she’s most moved by the benefit that her work has on patients whose healthcare needs are finally being met, as well as the promise of helping future patients who still have unmet needs.
“I think that the complexity of science and the advancements in science have kept me in the space for so long,” she says. “I see that advancement and the meaning that it has for people and families.”
“I've seen so many successful and meaningful global brand launches. Perseverance and passion are major keys to success.”
Global CEO, Ogilvy Health
She has the same outward vision when it comes to her “player-coach” style of “servant leadership.”
“We focus on our people, and I believe that when you do, that takes care of a lot of things,” she says.
She also tries to “lead from the front of the organization” and model the traits she cultivates in herself, like bravery, entrepreneurial thinking, empathy, respect and learning.
Johnson also values perseverance and considers it a key to success throughout the entire lifecycle of a drug, from the clinical discovery process to commercialization. It takes tenacity and the willingness to “fail fast, learn and then pursue again,” whether that’s with developing new molecules, getting FDA approval or marketing a drug in a way that connects with physicians and patients.
“I've seen so many successful and meaningful global brand launches, global drug launches,” she says. “Perseverance is a major key to success.”
It’s also a key to success as she leads Ogilvy Health into a new era.
“Many of our industry greats have passed through this agency over the years,” she says of Ogilvy. “We take what we’ve learned from them, build upon that and we keep moving ahead and keep progressing…the ultimate goal is always going to be growth — for our clients, their brands and for our agency.”
For Johnson, that goal is about people and outcomes for clients and, ultimately, patients, especially given the diverse group of veterans and fresh talent among Ogilvy Health’s ranks.
“I just think it's a terrific blend right now for the agency across our talent base in the U.S. and globally, and I look forward to continued growth for the agency, our people and our clients,” she says.