2019 Annual Report: Healthcare Communications Agencies Overview – Another Year Of Changes, Growth
In 30 years of the Manny Awards, many things – technology, medicine, and ways agencies do business – have changed. But the healthcare ad industry continues to thrive and adapt to the new demands for relevance and creativity.
Think of where you were 30 years ago. Were you already working in healthcare advertising? Were you still in college or just graduated? Or were you in high school, grade school, or possibly not even close to being born yet? (If the latter, get off my lawn. OK, just kidding, you precious Gen Z flower you.)
Now think about what the media world was like 30 years ago. Network television was still king (although CNN, MTV, and TBS were around, Comedy Central did not start until 1991, and Sci-Fi Channel/SyFy did not start until 1992). The primary places to advertise were newspapers, magazines, and radio, as well as direct mail.
And the internet was not really a thing unless you subscribed to GEnie or CompuServe (AOL didn’t get cranking until the 1990s). And if you do not know what either GEnie or CompuServe were, clearly you were not a total nerd in the late 1980s. Everything was dial-up and you were charged per hour for how much time you spent in the forums. And as far as phones went, if you had a portable phone it was a pretentious brick and you were rich.
Oh, and on-the-job technology was… here, just let me tell you a story of the olden times: As a newspaper reporter (from 1988 to 1993), I would either find a payphone and call in my article (I could dictate a decent 10 inches with some preparation) or after picking up a Tandy 600 and phone cups, write it and transmit it, again via a payphone.
WiFi? That was not going to come around until 1999 for home use.
It was a dark and barbarous era, but somehow we survived.
As far as healthcare marketing and advertising were concerned in 1989, the physician still ruled, as the writer of scrips, courted by the sales force and by ads in medical journals.
DTC advertising, which was in its infancy in the United States, was just on television and in print consumer magazines. And pharma companies at the time preferred that consumer shops, in networks with their mighty media buying powers, did DTC.
Meanwhile, still under the radar, labored the people and agencies that produced the “science-based” ads that appeared in medical journals. These print ads were often grouped in the front of journals, carefully separated from the editorial content.
But the founders of Med Ad News, Karl and Styliani “Styli” Engel, wanted to celebrate the creativity exhibited by these agencies, and held the first Manny Awards in 1989. Some of the agencies around then, such as Lyons Lavey Nickel Swift, Cline Davis & Mann, and Torre Lazur, have evolved into entirely different entities.
And the Manny Awards have evolved as well. As agencies took on work other than prescription human drugs – such as medical devices, health and wellness, managed care, and even DTC, once mostly the realm of the consumer shops – our awards categories have grown and changed.
For example, “Best Professional Campaign” has transformed this year into Best Professional Video Campaign, Best Professional Web Campaign, and Best Professional Print Campaign, acknowledging how client needs have morphed.
Area 23, one of the finalists for Category I Agency of the Year, captured the Best Professional Video Campaign nod for “Heart Stories,” on behalf of the diabetes drug Jardiance, raising awareness of the cardiac effects of Type 2 diabetes through the medium of three love stories brought to an end too soon. The New York-based agency also won a Manny for Best Professional Print Campaign with “No Defense” for Arikayce, which connects nontuberculous mycobacteria with the legendary vampire, and the drug to the stake.
Category II Agency of the Year Winner Fingerpaint won the Best Professional Web Campaign category with “Nature Calls” for Avadel, which brought to life the feeling and consequences of waking up too many times a night to urinate, showing physicians that this pesky problem should be taken seriously.
The Best Consumer Campaign award was also broken up this year into TV/Radio, Web, and Print subcategories.
The Best Consumer TV/Radio Campaign winner was Area 23, with “April Fools” for Allergan’s coolsculpting. The spoof ads jokingly touted “Moosespa.com” as “the only cool way to lose weight.”
The Best Consumer Web Campaign award went to GSW with “Dyskinesia Is A Jerk,” an educational resource and platform to give people with Parkinson’s disease an outlet to share their experiences and create a community of understanding.
The Best Consumer Print Campaign Manny recipient was “A Beautiful Pair” for Eylea, by Intouch Solutions. The agency described the campaign as “a magical tale starring two eyes, linked together as they march through life, seeing everything side by side. When faced with the adversity of retinal disease, they refuse to back down. An imaginative world featuring stopmotion animation was created for their journey spanning TV, print, consumers website, high impact digital media, and more.”
As the power of social media has proliferated through all of our lives, it has even overcome the conservative bastions of pharma. A decade ago the question asked by pharma marketers were asking, “How can we do social media and be compliant with FDA regulations and not scare our own medical/regulatory people?”
Now the question is, “Why shouldn’t we do social media?” As consumer brands have forged ahead in the promotional space, pharma is taking some pointers and making its own way. This year the Manny Awards acknowledged the evolution of these campaigns with Best Social Media Campaign. However, this category ranges beyond prescription drugs into more generalized health and wellness.
The 2019 winner is Area 23’s “The Worst Restaurant in Town,” in which the agency hacked Yelp to “put nutrition back on the menu and improve the quality of NYC school lunches.” Area 23 was also one of the finalists in this category with “Get Up Alarm Clock,” the world’s first social media alarm clock, projecting messages of strength onto patients’ ceiling to help them not just wake up, but get up. The other finalist in this category was The Bloc, with “Memories for Memory Loss,” which lets loved ones share meaningful memories that people with dementia can still access and enjoy.
Another area of promotion in pharma that did not exist even a decade ago is experiential marketing. According to HubSpot, experiential marketing, also called engagement marketing, “invites an audience to interact with a business in a real-world situation. Using participatory, hands-on, and tangible branding material, the business can show its customers not just what the company offers, but what it stands for.”
As physicians have become more difficult to reach with promotional messages over the past few decades – barring sales reps from their practices or just too busy to take time out for meetings, and restricted from accepting noneducational giveaways – pharma has to go where the audience is still going: medical conferences. Unable to distribute fancy souvenirs from their booths, pharma companies have turned to agencies to create memorable experiences for attendees.
Area 23 on Hudson and Studio Rx Productions, members of the FCB Health Network, won the Best Experiential Campaign award with “Parkinson’s House Call.” Sunovion is trying to develop on-demand treatments for people with Parkinson’s disease who are suffering “off” periods, when their dyskinesia and other symptoms remain uncontrolled despite medication. At the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) annual meeting, FCB Health sought to offer physicians information about the types, frequency, and real impact of “OFFs” that was robust, interesting, and emotionally engaging, by giving physicians a chance to “walk through” a house of two Parkinson’s disease patients, Frank and Maggie. Each room contained information about how patients cope with and make accommodations for their disabilities. Visitors were invited to touch the objects in the rooms, listen to the patients’ stories on the phone, and learn through integrated digital experiences.
Finalist GSW’s “Repatha Escape Room” was an immersive, live experience that places HCPs in a room where a patient, “Jim,” is experiencing his stroke risk as a shaking, crumbling building. Players had to solve puzzles involving new Repatha data before they can escape. As the game progresses, the threat of the building collapse intensifies – pushing doctors to collaborate to bring down the patient’s risk.
The other finalist, “Chemosaurus” by Navicor, was a trade show installation created to raise awareness about Celgene’s commitment to researching new therapeutic treatment modalities that seek to address the underlying immune dysfunction that contributes to hematologic malignancies such as indolent Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
While professional education remains a mainstay of healthcare advertising, the importance of reaching the patient and understanding their journey has increased. In response to this evolving area of promotion, the Manny Awards now has a Best Patient Engagement Campaign category.
The winner, “Zac’s Play Day” by CDM, illustrated the story of Zac the zebra, who heads to the playground for the first time with his brother, Ziggy. An opportunity arises for Zac to explain his disease, spinal muscular dystrophy, to a very curious group of playground visitors – a dialogue that can be mirrored in human interactions, providing an opportunity to improve patient experience through conversation.
Best Patient Engagement Campaign finalist Area 23’s “TXT2HLP” is the first mobile platform to recruit and train terminal cancer patients to become suicide counselors.
The other finalist, “UCD In Common” by The Patient Experience Project, focuses on managing urea cycle disorder (UCD) with a low protein diet. For client Horizon Pharma, PEP highlighted the resources – recipes, live-event cooking classes, recipe-prep and dietitian videos, and a cookbook – to help unite families living with UCD manage their diet in practical and informed ways.
As pharma has evolved over the last 30 years from developing treatments for general populations to a focus on rare diseases, healthcare ad agencies have developed campaigns to help their clients educate physicians about these conditions. In another first this year, there is now a Best Rare Disease Campaign Manny Award. Winner Area 23’s “The World’s Smallest Booth for Lilly’s STS drug Lartruvo upended the conventional wisdom in the world of HCP congresses that booth size matters. Area 23 took a different approach and went small to go big, making a digital “booth” for attendees to interact with.
Socially, we have evolved a lot since 1989. We still have some way to go, but Black Lives Matter, #metoo, and gay and transgender rights are all things that 30 years ago were not on the radar of anyone but the most radical.
And agency culture has evolved with the times. The days of “Mad Men” are still within living memory, but today’s healthcare ad agencies are striving to eliminate racism and gender-based toxicity from their environs. To acknowledge that work, this year the Manny Awards included a “Diversity & Inclusion Champion” (D&I).
Winner Intouch Group (headed by Faruk Capan, who came to America from Turkey to achieve his dreams) launched Forever Welcome in January 2018. When one of Intouch’s own lost her husband to a hate crime, the agency rallied around her, and ultimately, took up her cause: to tell immigrants that they are welcome in the United States — and at Intouch.
Forever Welcome is designed to encourage empathy for people who immigrate to the United States. “As the nation continues to hold heated conversations around immigration, Forever Welcome inspires empathy by sharing immigrants’ stories through social media storytelling,” Intouch executives say.
D&I finalist Concentric Health Experience boasts a very diverse community, which minorities make up more than 37 percent of the agency, 55 percent of the agency are women, and most importantly nearly half of all leadership positions are held by women.
And for D&I finalist McCann Health, network management strives to find meaningful ways to create a culture “that is as diverse as the world our work impacts, cultivating an ethos of belonging, connection, and purpose that catalyzes creativity and innovation.”
This year’s finalists for another Med Ad News Manny category – the Heart Award – also broke new ground in support of extremely valuable causes.
The winner, CultHealth, created “NEST ASSURED” for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) awareness and prevention. Rather that just write a check to an organization, CultHealth closed its offices for normal business for 2.5 days – something unheard of in the agency world, where every hour is supposed to be spent in billable client activity – and every employee was placed on to one of four teams.
The teams were collectively briefed by experts and then worked around-the-clock to develop a solution to the heartbreaking increase in the incidence of SIDS.
The resulting concepts were judged by an outside expert panel, and the winning concept is currently in research, set to launch in second-quarter 2019.
Finalists Area 23 and FCB Health New York also made unusual efforts for most valuable causes. Area 23 created Posts Into Letters, an initiative for Change the Ref, a political action group led by Manuel Oliver, the father of Joaquin Oliver, who was slain in the Parkland, Fla., shooting. According to Manuel Oliver, “After every school shooting, everyone goes to social media and posts about change. But posts aren’t enough. The Area 23 team created a platform where anyone can convert their social post into a letter to Congress. But the letter was in Joaquin’s handwriting, based on a font the agency created using his school books.”
The campaign generated more than 10,000 letters to Congress over the course of two months.
FCB Health New York’s REBOOT is an immersive program for people who are transitioning careers or reentering the workforce and looking to apply their skillsets to the advertising world. In spring 2018, FCB Health Network launched an eight-week REBOOT program with an inaugural class of five veterans. The second iteration of REBOOT, in winter 2018, introduced five veterans to the industry and has, thus far, resulted in the hiring of all five participants.