February 02, 2016

There are innumerable ways to enhance the effectiveness of healthcare marketing communications, from better problem definition to sharper insights to stronger ideas, but there is one underlying factor that is the primary determinant of success: talent. The sharpest minds, when engaged on any/all of the above, will invariably produce a better outcome. Unfortunately, the world of marketing/advertising is at a significant disadvantage these days when it comes to securing the best and the brightest. In healthcare communications, this need is greater than ever given the increasing complexity of the system and the ever-increasing role patients are playing.

First, a bit of history is in order. Until the 1990s, marketing/advertising was able to draw some of the top talent from some of our finest universities. No, we were never able to pay what Wall Street or the top law firms and consultants were able to pay, but there was an allure to our industry that enticed some of the sharpest and most creative minds into our world, with the promise of a very nice living (minus the extra zero or two of the super-wealthy), along with a strong feeling of accomplishment.

This doesn’t mean that an entire generation of brilliance skipped out. If you look at our industry today, there are fortunately many exceptions to the rule, as there are numerous 30- and 40-somethings who are taking our industry to new creative heights, seizing on the opportunities presented by an ever-fragmenting world of media choices.   

What it does mean is that the best minds of our industry’s next generation are not choosing to enter our world. While I can’t claim to have access to a high-powered quant study of this issue, I have seen a scarily low number of brilliant minds opting for marketing/advertising as their chosen career from the past half-dozen college graduating classes. Unfortunately, this dynamic is exacerbated further in healthcare marketing, as the most visible communications from our world to new graduates are DTC TV ads. While those of us involved in DTC advertising recognize the craftsmanship required to produce highly effective DTC, through the lens of a 22 year old, a two-minute ad that spends more time warning than selling is not going to win out over an opportunity to work on a cool, in-the-moment consumer brand (using media that is equally as cool).

As any good account person knows, you never raise an issue unless you have a possible solution, so here’s mine: we need to do a more effective job of conveying the magic inherent to our industry.  I believe our universities are doing a good job of teaching marketing fundamentals, and the advertising programs are doing an excellent job teaching the skills new marketers/advertising people need to be successful. That said, like a brief that’s missing an emotional appeal, we need to step up the right-brain sell: that there’s nothing like the thrill of selling in a killer idea and basking in the success of a highly effective campaign.

Look around to all the 20+ year veterans of the industry, and ask them why they’re still doing what they’re doing, and without exception you’ll hear some variation of “love.” It’s the excitement an account planner feels uncovering an insight that everyone else has missed; the sense of achievement a creative director feels when they’ve brought that look of wonder to their clients’ faces; and that feeling an account person has knowing they’ve just helped convince a client to do something truly bold. Here is where healthcare has a particular edge, as the satisfaction one receives from knowing that you’re reaching physicians and patients with information that literally saves/restores lives is far beyond the feeling one has working on even the coolest brands.

Hopefully, there are many readers who protest that they convey this sentiment, and pride themselves in what they do to entice potential recruits. I’d love nothing more than the above to be proven wrong. However, until that time when everyone in a position to inspire the next generation of our industry can stand up and proclaim that they are persuading the best minds to join us, my advice is to sell the “wow” feeling hard, and convey the love you have of our industry … because the more of those top brains we can attract, the more effective everything we do will be.  

The author served on the 2015 Final Round North American Health Effie Awards Jury.

By Stu Klein Friday, Jan. 29, 2016
About the author: Stu Klein, Interpublic healthcare practice lead, IPG
Courtesy of mediapost


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