Q&A with Liz Kane of Ogilvy Health

As Med Ad News‘ April 2022 edition was coming together, Ogilvy Health hired industry strategist Liz Kane to lead the agency’s Insights, Brand and Medical Strategy offerings. Kane shared insights from what she brings to the agency from her 20-year career, including as head of brand strategy at Havas Life, where she led efforts for Pfizer and Amgen, and global consumer advertising stints at Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett.

Med Ad News: How did you come to Ogilvy Health?

Liz Kane: Well, my early career started at Ogilvy when I was in the consumer packaged goods space, so I touched upon General Mills and a bunch of other brands. And I was invited to join a pitch at Ogilvy to bring Claritin over the counter in 2002. And that was a successful pitch. We landed on a winning campaign of “Claritin Clear,” which is still out there and still has longevity. So that was super exciting to be a part of. And you know, recruitment happens on so many levels in the agency world and agency life. How I came to be at Ogilvy Health was really following the careers and the work of the people I’d be interacting with and building this team with.

I’ve been in health care for 20 years since that Claritin exercise. And I think for me, a couple of things came into play. One is I love great advertising. I love great communication. It’s in my DNA. And I’ve always felt that there was a room and an opportunity to have brilliance and creativity in the healthcare space. And Ogilvy has an incredible legacy in creativity. I still abide by many of David Ogilvy’s belief systems and his thought process and how he talks about the work.

Med Ad News: What do you bring to the table for the agency and for healthcare advertising in general? What do you think are your strengths?

Liz Kane: I’ve been in health care for 20 years since that Claritin exercise. And I think for me, a couple of things came into play. One is I love great advertising. I love great communication. It’s in my DNA. And I’ve always felt that there was a room and an opportunity to have brilliance and creativity in the healthcare space. And Ogilvy has an incredible legacy in creativity. And I still abide by many of David Ogilvy’s belief systems and his thought process and how he talks about the work. So I think for me, that really played a pretty big role.

Med Ad News: What’s your vision for where you want to take Ogilvy Health now and in the future?

Liz Kane: I think, particularly in this climate, over a decade of helping to nurture and lead diverse groups of really terrific people. I didn’t mention this up front, but Ogilvy has been a great training ground, a great launching pad for many, many strategists in the industry. And I want to continue to carry that forward.

Med Ad News: What do you think differentiates good strategy from merely serviceable in healthcare, and how do you achieve that strategy?

Liz Kane: A win for me would be if we were to hear from a creative team, that the insights my team brought forward, or the creative brief, or the creative strategy that drove the work, was the inspiration to get there. So really understanding that a new business or a winning campaign, the inception of it, came from the strategy and from the Insight work that we had done.

Med Ad News: What do you see are the biggest challenges for clients in pharma and healthcare and how do you think Ogilvy Health can address those challenges?

Liz Kane: I think that there’s a few things that have emerged front and center in the last number of years in the pharma healthcare space. One is the ubiquity of healthcare information. And then the mistrust of Big Pharma playing a role as well. And then you have conversely, all the possibilities that these companies bring to health and wellness and particularly the response to COVID that we’ve seen in the last year. So I really see our role as being a partner with our clients to understand the genuine value that they can bring into the world.

Med Ad News: Where do you see the healthcare advertising industry heading in general? And where do you want to see it go?

Liz Kane: I would love it to be brilliant and compelling and drive clients’ business and solve problems in society and in the world.

Med Ad News: There’s been a lot of talk over the years of healthcare needs to get more creative, where people would love to see more creativity in health care. What are the barriers to that, and how can they be overcome?

Liz Kane: I think some of them have been overcome. I mean, you see great work from other health agencies. I do think there’s more of an appetite now as we shift to more digital, omnichannel communications. So we look at the experience and again, looking at it holistically from a 360 perspective and bringing all these various experts together, in a way it comes down to the insight – how we sell the work, how we solve problems. So a lot will go into getting there, but there’s some pretty terrific work out there in the healthcare space.

Med Ad News: When you’re talking with clients, and you’re trying to get them to be a little bit more forward thinking in their strategy, how do you convince them that they should take that leap?

Liz Kane

Liz Kane: Part of it comes down to just a general premise that most pharmaceutical marketers have, which is this bottom-up approach, starting with the product claims, or product story – versus starting with the human being, a top down approach, if you have a depth of understanding around a rheumatologist, a neurologist, or an oncologist. They [marketers] get it, if they can see how this is going to create a behavior change in the hearts and minds of their customers. They go on that journey with you.

And I’ve been hearing from more and more clients, “We don’t want to be traditional pharma, we want to shake things up. We want something different. We don’t want to see people on a beach. We really do want to see things that feel unique and will get the attention that the brand will need to show up in the marketplace.”

Med Ad News: What do you think is unique about Ogilvy Health compared with other agency networks? Where do you see the business in five years?

Liz Kane: Well, it goes back to what I said, it starts with the legacy. It starts with the foundation and great creativity, but also looking at that cultural, behavioral science element, the data science element. And where do I see us in five years? That’s so hard to answer, because I really feel we could be the next big thing in health and that we’ll be in front, and it will be exciting, it will be interesting. It’s going to be fun. And that’s really the end game for me.