The next in creative with Ogilvy Health’s Adam Hessel

Adam Hessel was appointed chief creative officer of Ogilvy Health in January. Hessel discussed with Med Ad News why he crossed over into healthcare from the consumer sector, what he brings to Ogilvy Health, and where he wants to see the healthcare industry go in general when it comes to creativity.

Med Ad News: What attracted you to healthcare originally from where you were in the consumer space?

Adam Hessel: Yes, I was in the consumer space for a good couple of decades. At the time, consumer business was kind of evolving, changing – staffing, the needs, it was kind of taking somewhat of a downturn, and business was drying up as companies were bringing folks in internally. And during that time, I wondered what my next move is going to be with within advertising. The work Area 23 was doing, [Area 23 Creative Director] Tim Hawkey was doing, in the healthcare space, we never saw work like that done in that space before. It was like a perfect storm at that point – I had an an old copywriter friend that I used to work with who I reached out to and he and said, “GSW is looking. I showed them your work.” And they wanted me and it would be a perfect fit. They were really looking to push the bar creatively. … And after that meeting, I was a little uncertain, but took the job and continued to look and actually had a few offers, and in general, like a few months later, but at that point, I was fully committed. And it kind of felt like the Wild West in a way where you could create your own creative boundaries. Clients wanted it, but maybe weren’t given it in the past. So it just kind of happened. And looking back, I’m really glad it did happen, actually.

Med Ad News: Once in healthcare, what attracted you to Ogilvy Health in specific?

Adam Hessel: Well, for sure, you know, I’ve always known the name Ogilvy but outside of knowing the name, it was Kim Johnson, who was an amazing leader who I worked with at GSW prior, and I think the world of just from a leadership standpoint – not only for the people at the agency, but also from a business POV as well. She knows how to get things done. And then also the legendary Liz Taylor, with her back at the helm of the global CCO role, which I believe is about 130-plus offices with Ogilvy Health, being a couple of those. Also, it was a great meeting with her, it felt like we’re all aligned. And I remember in the past when I dropped off my portfolio at reception at Ogilvy and got a call to pick it up a couple of days later. I was like, “I guess it’s not happening at this point.” But now it is. So I could say, a box that I had been looking at for awhile has been checked.

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

Adam Hessel: So for the agency, what I would say is, you know, really look at my job. The main thing is really trying to push the creative boundaries of the work we do for our clients. And not just for creativity’s sake, but I truly think work that’s unique, also affects sales of a product or patient behavior, a doctor behavior, and really kind of bringing those results as well, with great work. And I’d say within the healthcare space, a lot is changing. COVID obviously brought a lot of these healthcare names to people, and they became household names – they had never heard of Moderna before, or say, Gilead or Pfizer. At that point everyone was really hoping these companies now were going to save mankind. And I think folks are looking at healthcare differently now, which is great, because it is a great sector, and it does bring a lot of benefits to all of us when we need it. But I think there’s a lot of different types of communications that clients are now starting to warm up to, different mediums that in the past, when they were a little bit more old school, and now they’re thinking of those mediums. I think the challenge for the agency is to help educate the clients on these different mediums, even AI, and be willing to take some baby steps in creating some work and have spaces to make them as cutting edge with some of their products, or when it comes to marketing and advertising.

Med Ad News: In your opinion, what differentiates good creative from merely serviceable creative in healthcare? And how do you achieve that good creative?

Adam Hessel

Adam Hessel: I don’t want to give too much of a secret sauce away, but I think my job coming in, is really trying to push my internal creative team at the agency, and also push the boundaries with our clients. In my eyes, it’s taking something that’s OK and making it good to me, or taking something good and making it great, or taking something that could have been great and making it amazing. And taking something amazing and making it tremendous. So for me, the big creative initiatives, like branded work or nonbranded work, or broadcast work, are as important to me as charts and graph. There are a lot of different needs in the healthcare space than in general. In my eyes, it’s really fine tuning and improving all that. To me, there’s a lot of communication out there. But when you asked this question, to me it really means what makes me feel like we’re putting out an amazing creative product, is when the industry at large recognizes that product. For better or for worse, usually for better, is when we’re making strides as an agency and our peers are noticing. And, I think that’s really when you know you’re making a difference, and making a difference in the teams, making a difference in the agencies, making a difference for the clients. Obviously there’s a lot of metrics and analytics based on the work we put out, making sure they’re getting the ROIs that they’re looking for, and even potentially doing a better job. They’re expecting us to do that, we set the bar for that.

Med Ad News: What are your 2022 goals, creatively speaking, with Ogilvy Health – what do you want to aim for?

Adam Hessel: I want Ogilvy Health to be synonymous with being a creative shop. And I know, Ogilvy in general, has gone back to those roots over the last year, and is really pushing creativity. That’s amazing, but actions speak louder than words. When it comes to our offering, I want us to be known for our talent. I want to nurture and identify the great talent we already have. I want them to come to me and say, “Here are some great job offers,” because to me, they’re becoming shining stars. And that’s good. And I also want to be able to have some great talent from the outside wanting to come work for us rather than have to hunt them down. And to me, that’s all with trying to help and bolster the work, where any creative wants to be part of that. When you ask creatives “Where would you want to work?”, I want Ogilvy Health to be one of the top three shops that they would want to work at if they could pick. Other things that are important to me, obviously DE&I initiatives and making sure that we’re serious about that, and that’s reflected in our staff, in all the ranks of the creative department. I know that’s a big initiative for the entire agency as well. So I’ve been auditing current staff and where we have some openings and meeting with the right people to make sure that’s something we’re doing. And also make sure that in the work we’re doing, when we’re casting and thinking about casting that demographic for the product, that we are featuring the right folks in that work. 2022 goals to me would be looking back a year from now, and saying that’s some great work that we’re really excited about, we’re really proud of. We can use it to update our website and our sizzle reel. To me, that’s, “OK, I’m doing my job and making it happen.”

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

Adam Hessel: Look, you know where I want to go. Since I started in the business, agencies continue to expand on their offerings. When I first started, there were three mediums. And as time has gone on, agencies are coming up with their own innovative products, and putting those up and partnering with technology companies to bring great products for patients or doctors in the healthcare space, in a really creative, unique way. So two things: one is, I want to keep the old mediums alive and well, because I think it’s important. Print is still important. And even though it’s a static image, and even on a website, it’s still considered kind of a print ad, it’s a static image, which I think is one of the hardest mediums to really do an amazing job at telling your story or visual with – your headline, it’s got to be so tight. But with that, what can we do that’s cutting edge as well? I’m looking into if we can be the first agency to bring up an NFT to a client, and somehow that works for them, that it’s something great for them to communicate to doctors with their patients with. And what are the next boundaries when it comes to innovation for an agency, while still giving the heart and soul to basically our day-to-day scopes, and making sure that creative is as great as it could be.