Klick Health hired 37-time Cannes Lions and 80-time Clio awards recipient Bernardo Romero to become the agency’s ‘Maker’ – a role that was specially created around his desire to return to creating campaigns and products that positively impact people’s health. Romero, who was Chief Creative Officer at The Bloc, wants to bring his patient experience as someone who has diabetes into his work. Romero and Klick Health Chief Creative Officer Rich Levy talked to Med Ad News about what brought Romero to Klick and the launch of The Workshop, a Klick team of “Makers, Concepters, Noodlers and Doodlers” that will be experimenting with new ideas for creative healthcare advertising.
Med Ad News: How did Bernardo come on board?
Rich Levy: I just want to take you back a few months to how this all happened, because I’m sure you’re wondering. It actually started in the fall. Bernardo and I had worked together when we were both at another agency, and we’ve stayed in contact for the last few years. Bernardo sent me a text message asking if we can get together for coffee. As we were having coffee, he explained that because of the success that he was having over the past few years, he was getting lots of phone calls and inquiries from people wanting him to come run their network or run their agency. He wanted to pick my brain about what I thought and what sounded good and all those things, and as we’re talking, I actually got this feeling that Bernardo wasn’t very excited about any of them, to be honest. And at one point it’s like a light bulb went on over my head. I said, “Wait a minute, Bernardo, the things that you’re really passionate about doing are the things that we’re doing here at Klick,” and I started thinking, well why don’t we just do this together. And so we spent a little bit of time brainstorming what a position could look like for Bernardo at Klick. By the end of that coffee, I know I was really excited and I could sense that Bernardo was really excited. After that it didn’t take very, very long, that we were like, “All right, let’s do this, let’s figure this out, let’s start this whole new thing together.” It’s been really exciting, I can’t wait, honestly, to get started.
Med Ad News: The title of ‘Maker’ makes me think of the steampunk scene, someone who plays around with gears and brass, how did that come up?
Bernardo Romero: Well, this brings up the project, The Workshop, because it is unusual, the thing we’re doing right now. Klick has a heritage of doing unusual things because of their hacking spirit, their entrepreneurial spirit. Rich was the person who brought me to the United States. He called me seven years ago and said, “Bernardo, you’re the number one [art director] in the world according to Lürzer’s Archive and you know I want to work with you,” and I was already watching what Rich was doing within his former network [FCB Health]. And I had been diagnosed with diabetes 15 years ago and that was something that was in the back of my head. I was writing big brands back in the day, but I wanted to do something more purposeful So when I spoke with Rich, he told me something that really stuck with me, which is, “I want you to come to the States not only to work in healthcare, but to change it.” And I was like either this guy is crazy or he’s onto something, and history proves he was onto something, because we won a network of the year award.” Two years after that conversation, when I decided to seek advice from Rich like I always used to do, I was really looking forward to going back to that conversation, about how can we think about the next chapter within healthcare advertising, how can we hack and disrupt healthcare advertising again. And then by talking with Rich, we ended up thinking about a new gang that could perhaps create new ways of thinking about how to better engage with patients with doctors, in a way that is more connected to culture and behavior.
So the idea of the workshop is to have people from multi-disciplinary parts of society, or of different industries, to come on and join us and rethink about how to better engage with patients and people, to ultimately be more effective and save more lives and change more lives. Because we’re doing something that had never been done before in this way, it didn’t make sense to have normal roles, so Rich asked me, “Bernardo, what role do you want to be?” And I told Rich, “I want to be a maker, because a maker stands for being closer to the work, to be a craftsperson that is really hands on.” The Workshop could hire someone from the music industry, perhaps someone from Broadway, someone from Netflix, because we want that kind of different environment that picks from all different parts because, again, we want to be relevant, we want to disrupt the way we’re doing advertising, again to be more effective and more relevant.”
Rich Levy: What was interesting is after Bernardo was like, “Yeah, I think I want my title to be maker,” then, as we started talking to other people to join the team, one was like, “Well, I’m a noodler, it’s the way I think,” and someone else said, “Well, I always sketch these things, I’m a doodler,” so it became ways of people rethinking their title. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. And it will literally help us elevate the craft because I mean one of the reasons we named it The Workshop is that workshops are where craftspeople come to apply their craft. And we really want to use this as a way of mentoring internal talent, bringing new people into the industry who have never been in the industry before, and a way of elevating the craft for the entire company.
Med Ad News: You’re still building it, but how do you envision The Workshop working in, say, a pitch process or the process of providing creative to a client?
Rich Levy: It’s really simple, frankly, any sort of project comes into the agency, and any member of our team, any part of our organization, can tap into The Workshop. We have already set up all the processes of how to engage with the team. It’s really an internal shared service that everyone within the agency can tap into.
Med Ad News: Bernardo, what are you looking forward to doing once everything is really up and running, what do you want to get involved in?
Bernardo Romero: As we know, after the pandemic, all the dynamics have changed, content is more important than ever. People are going out, they want experience brands more than anything in the world. And how can we become a brand that really walks the walk, it’s about finding other formulas, other ways of doing what we do. And this is what I think is amazing about Klick is that their heritage is about having that hacking attitude, that entrepreneurship, a spirit that is always interested in having the pulse of culture and behavior. At the end of the day, me and Rich coming together really to try to diagnose what’s needed to be more effective, because the entire industry is trying to invent and reinvent itself. So with my passion of being on the ground with the work, and with Rich, who is inarguably the best and most accomplished chief creative in the industry, I think it’s a no-brainer that this is a dream team to be able to be more effective and save more lives.
Rich Levy: One aspect of our company is Klick Labs, and they for years have been inventing new ways of doing things. And the idea that we can have access, as creatives, to a lab with engineers and with scientists and with data scientists, to invent new ways to solve some very old problems in our health system, has always been incredibly exciting to me, and something that I really can’t wait to unleash Bernardo on those folks in the labs to just see what we can dream up that honestly has never been dreamed up before.
Bernardo Romero: A lot of people have asked me if I’ve been downgraded, “You used to be a chief creative, now you’re like a maker or something.” But this whole thing came because of my relationship with Rich, and because he’s at a company that stands for things that I stand for, which is being people first, and being a company that wants to do the best for the clients by adapting to whatever the new trends or the new needs are. So I think it’s the perfect marriage. I think you’re going to see a lot coming from Klick because I know that, over the past three years, Rich has been doing amazing work that already is winning awards, and priming and creating room and space for creativity.
Rich Levy: Klick is celebrating our 25th anniversary this year, and because we were founded by computer hackers, we pride ourselves in being different. We pride ourselves on hacking around the boundaries of what we’re allowed to do and what we’re not allowed to do. I think The Workshop is just another proof point that we’re always looking for new and different ways of doing things. There are a million reasons why this shouldn’t have worked, but you know what, I give our company a lot of credit, because when I came to the leadership saying that I have a crazy idea, they were like cool, let’s go do this.