>> Thursday, December 31, 2009

It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re in Carefree, Arizona – which is a pretty good place to be to bring in a New Year (or just about any other day). It’s also where we were 10 years ago, and as this first decade of the third millennium comes to a close it seemed like a good time to reflect on the next ten years from the standpoint of smart brands.

On New Year’s Eve 1999, my wife Teresa and I watched as 2000 rang in, first in Sydney, then Tokyo (our former home), then Shanghai – and gradually headed westward towards the Arizona desert. A couple of weeks later a USA Today survey would find that 69% of Americans agreed that ‘the country was headed in the right direction’. The Dow closed that day at 11,497 and unemployment was at 3.7%.

Today the percentage of Americans agreeing that we’re ‘headed in the right direction’ stands at 25%. The Dow will probably close today around 10,400 and the latest unemployment figure stands at 9.4%.

Much has been written in the past few days about the ‘lost decade’, one which we seemingly didn’t advance our lives much from where we stood 10 years ago – and with two wars going on and having weathered two recessions, the question being asked is whether we made any real progress at all.

Of course we have. But life moves along at its own version of Moore’s Law – the speed of the demands on us and the challenges we all face seem to double every 18 months. And while there have been many achievements that have put the world closer together during the last ten years (we do live in a Facebook/Twitter world, at least for the moment), we have also taken our fair share of bad news, so it’s no wonder everyone feels a bit more stressed today.

But in this convergence of events also exists opportunity – the writing on the wall may be that in this environment, the smart money is on brands and businesses that people trust to make their lives easier. Brands that listen to consumers, and make the changes to help their customers as their lives change. This may mean providing better value, making delivery more convenient or creating healthier options. But definitely brands that hear what their consumers need and are nimble and smart enough to adjust their products and offerings.

Carefree may almost be an oxymoronic name for a place to ring in the New Year – these days, each successive new year seems to be anything but carefree. However, as the new decade gives us the opportunity to start fresh, perhaps carefree is an appropriate phrase for the kind of relationship consumers would like to have with brands they can build trust with in the coming years.

Here’s to a new year filled with wellness on all fronts.



Re-invention. Responsibility. Respect.

>> Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Those are our three wellness watchwords for the year ahead.

They come from the results of our Wellness survey, and we’re already seeing them being validated in the culture, whether it’s Deepak Chopra’s new book, Reinventing the Body, or Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project, or Oprah’s decision to respect that the time to end her show had come.

Our wellness watchwords remind us that true wellness goes beyond good health. True wellness, we think, is a function of the choices we make, and the experiences we create. Not just in which diet we choose or what medicine we take. There’s a chance – a need -- to create wellness in every part of our life’s story, from friends and family, to finance and fatigue, to marriage and money. And those are just places to start – the opportunity for wellness is woven in to every part of our lives.

So how do we see our three wellness watchwords coming to play in 2010?

Reinvention. Well, that’s easy. As the economy tumbled all around us, even those still bringing home salaries every week looked for ways to live their lives differently. There’s a debate about whether those changes will stick, but we think it will, at least for the coming year. Those who lost jobs are finding new strengths and skill sets to prepare themselves for a different profession. And with technology changing around us, every day brings a new way to rethink time-tested behavior, whether it’s reading a book or buying a car. Wellness in 2010 will mean continuing to reinvent how we meet both the challenges and opportunities life brings.

Responsibility? Trust has gone down. Way, way down. Whether you’re talking about Congress, big business, big finance, big auto or healthcare, we’re not sure who’s going to take care of us any more. So we’re learning to take care of ourselves – saving money, shopping prudently, remembering how to cook again, and polishing our fingernails at home, thank you very much. And as the gritty optimism of Hopenhagen fades into the fumes of the limos leaving Copenhagen, we know we need to do more for our planet, whether it’s eating lower on the food chain, biking to work or buying antiques (a lower carbon footprint than new furniture!). In 2010, wellness will include taking more responsibility for our actions, because we’ve learned that we can’t afford to be complacent about our health, our finances, or even our planet.

Respect. Well, that’s the heart of the matter, isn’t it? Respect for ourselves, and how we want to live, look and feel. Respect for our partners and children and families, friends and colleagues and neighbors. People we know, people we’ve “friended,” and people we’ve yet to meet. Because wellness is all about “we-ness.”

Wishing you well this holiday season – see you in 2010!



Open Happiness - The Mini Version

>> Sunday, December 20, 2009

The world's largest beverage company is downsizing. A couple of months ago, Coca-Cola announced the introduction of its new 90-calorie mini can; now it’s coming to a refrigerator near you.

A full page ad in the Sunday New York Times yesterday announced that “the world is changing and we are too.” The new can is cute and festive, with the image of a Classic Coke bottle on the front. The portion-controlled serving has about 50 calories less than the standard 12 ouncer.

That may not seem like much, but if you want to burn off 50 calories you’d have to take a brisk 15-minute walk. (How do I know? Check out this cool calorie calculator from

Some people say we’re wired by evolution to finish all the food in front of us (and if like me, you were raised by depression-era parents, it can be hard to let anything go to waste). So Coke is making it easier for people who love its original, classic, non-diet, non-Zero taste (you know who you are!) to enjoy it in moderation.

It’s all about making choices that work for you. As Coke’s ads say, you can still choose to “open happiness” -- but now you’ll be able to enjoy it while feeling just a little more virtuous. Which is a form of happiness, too.

Here’s hoping you’re well!



3 Life Lessons for Planners

>> Monday, December 14, 2009

I met Megan Murray when she was a student in my Corporate Branding seminar at NYU: Megan was so far and away the most interesting student in class that I was shocked to learn she was still an undergraduate! Megan graduated from NYU this last Wednesday, and we invited her to join us at Saatchi Wellness for a few weeks to see if Strategic Planning was just as interesting in real life as it was for her in school.

Here’s what she had to say about that – take it away, Megan!

Megan writes:

<<Lesson #1: The bad ideas are (almost) as important as the great ones. Bad ideas are a part of the process, and letting them get you down is far from productive. Sometimes it takes establishing the worst idea possible to begin to move in the right direction (far, far away). Working through a strategy becomes much easier with the understanding that not every idea will succeed. A million frustrating failures can lead you to the message that solves the equation. Getting there, no matter how steep the path, is what matters in the end.

Lesson #2: Know your strengths. A great creative team will sell your strategy better than you could ever imagine. Letting your mind wander into the world of hypothetical creative executions takes you away from your real strength. Spend your energy developing a great message and trust your creative team to hit it out of the park.

Lesson #3: Metaphors… use them! This may be my favorite lesson of all. In the classroom, we strive to make our strategies clear, direct, specific, and succinct. We spend our energy “getting to the point” and waste no time “dancing around it.” But the best communication may involve doing this dance after all. Learning to find the right metaphors for an idea or experience bridges gaps in rational understanding – and is invaluable for communicating deeper emotional messages. A strategy is only as strong as it is deep - if a message can’t get there, it gets lost in the clutter around us.

Like the adrenaline that sends you flying at the beginning of a race, my first weeks here have been exhilarating. I can only hope the lessons I’ve learned stay with me forever, and propel me through the rest of a hopefully, very exciting career.>>

Hope this finds you well!



George Clooney at the Hilton

>> Sunday, December 13, 2009

Last week, I spent about 8 hours in the middle seat of a packed airplane en route from NYC to Dallas Forth Worth. It's normally about a four hour trip, but the storm hitting the northeast changed all that.

We were second for takeoff when the tail wind shifted – and suddenly we were 3300 pounds overweight. The pilot called for a dozen passengers to disembark – unsaid was the observation that each of those passengers would have to weigh in at 300 pounds to make weight. For once, I felt pleasingly thin: even if I did get off the plane, my contribution wouldn’t count. For much.

But no one was willing to give up their seat, despite the fact that without a severe cut in our combined poundage, we were going nowhere. After about 2 hours, the pilot decided to take fuel off the plane. As he’d helpfully pointed out earlier, 3300 pounds too much meant we had just enough fuel to get to DFW, but not enough to actually land. Too much information.

We took off eventually for an uneventful trip to – wait for it – Little Rock, Arkansas, where we refueled, arriving at DFW around 8 pm. Three-plus hours’ delay felt like a small price to pay for having enough fuel to land. But the marketing coup of the day came not from the airline (which had helpfully informed us that we were the first of four planes to land and take off from Little Rock, and wasn’t that good news?), but from the DFW-area Hilton where we checked in for our one-night stay.

One by one, as we were handed our room card-keys, each of us said, hey, check this out. The face of each card bore an image from “Up In The Air,” the new George Clooney film. And feeling like a road-weary traveler myself at that point, I found myself with an extra interest – actually, an affinity – with the movie. And a dawning appreciation that I was thinking far more about George Clooney at this point than my own small foray into the aggravating side of business travel.

So thank you, Up In The Air and Hilton marketing team. Thank you for taking my mind off the middle seat after a long business travel day. And kudos for a partnership that managed to be both subtle and surprising -- intersecting with me and my life when it was most relevant.

Not that I need any extra encouragement to see George Clooney.

Hope this finds you well.



They're Just People

>> Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I was in a meeting the other day and caught myself doing something that, in hindsight, really made me stop and think. In the course of presenting ideas on how to engage a particular audience, I kept using terms like "patients," "customers," "consumers," and "targets" almost interchangeably, as if the label didn't matter and that one way of describing these groups was just as good as the other. I realized how limiting and narrow minded all of these labels are in describing anyone and tried to think of a better descriptor.

The answer that hit me was the obvious one: our job is to communicate with PEOPLE. Human, individual, unique people.

Of course we have to recognize that at different times throughout their days and lives, yes, people are our "customers" or our "consumers" (just look at the way goods were consumed on Black Friday), or any other label we want to apply. But these are just glimpses of a much more broad and interesting view. We need to take off the blinders and look at the whole picture.

Looking at this bigger picture makes our jobs as marketers a bit more challenging. Greater differences between people are revealed and the neat little groupings that we assemble for ourselves are now less meaningful than they used to be. Our "segmentation strategies" aren't the only things that are losing effectiveness—so too are the mass media channels that we rely upon to reach people, like TV and print. To succeed in this world, we need to make personalized content available within targeted channels to truly engage effectively.

Why have the rules of the game suddenly changed? I would argue that they haven't—people have always wanted to be treated like individuals, not as segments or targets or by attributes (which marketers make up) that lump them together with a bunch of other strangers. The game is different now because we have the means to do something about it. Whether it's the environments where we can interact better or data that helps us understand better, we have an unprecedented ability to treat people as the unique individuals that they are.

Yes, it's harder to engage and connect with people as people. But by dropping labels which narrow our focus, and looking at how we can relate to them within a larger context, our approach evolves and so does our ability to create things that truly resonate. Gone are the days where we launch messages at targets. Now, we must think about how to create and share unique experiences, in whatever form they may be.

I'm taking the first step. From now on no more labels like patients, customers, or consumers. They're just people.


I'll Have My Burger Green, Please

>> Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Notice anything about this logo? Sure, it’s the familiar golden arches. But in enviro-conscious Europe, McDonald’s is changing its ketchup-red background for a color it’s not normally associated with (unless you count cash): a deep green. If you’re traveling in Germany, France or England, you can already catch the new look.

The online space has been buzzing about whether this is “greenwashing” or simply a smart reflection of McDonald’s green values (read about McDonald’s top 5 green initiatives on their web site, or as reported by

When GM publicly considered a new green logo, it was ridiculed. But what I think is most interesting is that McD’s is not changing its logo everywhere – just in the places where it believes consumers act on green initiatives more often. And who still like Le Big-Mac for a quick déjeuner.

Can a brand play with its logo in some places and not others? Classic thinking would say no – but these aren’t classic times. We’re in an era of unparalleled personalization, targeting and re-invention. What’s your take?

Hope this finds you well,


Recession hurts wellness, not just wallets

>> Monday, November 23, 2009

That was's top story this morning, based on our survey, "Wellness & the Economy." (Read the article


We think it's telling that AdWeek chose to run the story as a feature, because the truth is, wellness is a factor in virtually every area of our lives, and in every category marketers are in (which is to say, all of them!).

Where once upon a time—say, before the economy tanked last year – affluent Americans defined “wellness” as being fit, healthy, and leading a balanced life, a dramatic shift has taken place: As the survey reveals, consumers’ #1 definition of wellness has changed from “being healthy” to “re-inventing.” Just take a look at the difference between the top 3 answers from last year to this: it’s clear that we’re operating in a whole new consumer environment.

What does wellness mean to you?



Being healthy


Feeling good inside and out


Being balanced

Sleeping well

Here are some of the ways responders described the change in their own lives:

Ø "Before, wellness meant eating right and exercising. Now it means being sane in a very desperate world."

Ø "Wellness used to mean feeling comfortable within my own skin, no matter how much I had to spend. Now it’s the peace of mind that comes with knowing I can pay the rent."

Ø " I used to believe in taking care of myself pre-emotively and proactively. Now I’m trying to maintain my mental heath and stress levels so I can function daily."

The more we’re affected by the economy, the less we tend to take care of ourselves, even in such basic areas as food and exercise. When we do work out, it’s all about stress relief, rather than appearance. The economy is taking a toll on our appearance – even our sex lives are suffering.

So what’s a wellness marketer to do? Here are our top 5 tips for making your brand relevant to today’s consumers, along with some of our favorite “wellness” campaigns that tap into the new zeitgeist. Most of these examples aren’t from marketers traditionally associated with wellness… but who’ve learned that true wellness transcends old definitions

  1. Look at how your product helps people reinvent their lives -- and even their everyday experiences. Wal-Mart’s new spot for Blue Bunny ice cream emphasizes that having ice cream at home can be just as much a treat for kids as going out to the local cone shop.

2. Help people see opportunity for change and rebuilding. Home Depot’s “Say Hello to savings” campaign celebrates the “budgetmasters” and “can-doers” who are busy improving both their homes and their lives.

3. Show how your product can help consumers keep what they have. Allstate’s “Back to Basics” campaign reminds consumers that what they have is worth cherishing – and protecting.

4. Reward consumers for being smarter, savvier shoppers. We’re learning to clip coupons, compare prices and find ways to make ends meet in ways that most of us haven’t had to think about for years. Microsoft’s series, “I’m a PC,” emphasizes that PC laptop buyers can have the functions they value, at a “value” price… and at least in the spots, rewards savvy shoppers who choose a PC with a free laptop.

5. Connect with people’s need to stay sane in a crazy world. Despite the mess we’re in, we’re still looking for ways to connect and have fun, without spending a lot of money. Selfishly, we happen to think that our campaign for Durex says it all… reminding people that there are all kinds of ways to find some pleasure.

We're happy to share more complete results! Email me at

Hope this finds you well!



Learning By Video Game

>> Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You might remember the Woody Allen line from 'Sleepers' where he says "Everything my mother told me is 'good for me' is actually bad for me: milk, sun, red meat, college. . ." Today could it be that the reverse has come true: that something that's been the scorn of parents for 25 years -- video games -- could be good for you?

I'm not talking about how Grand Theft Auto is the secret to higher SAT scores. But I recently had an experience that led me to question conventional wisdom about video games and their future role in how children learn.

My two young boys are die-hard Beatles fans and spent last summer anticipating the release of Beatles rock band. We hadn't owned a rock band game -- the boys had learned to play courtesy of their Uncle Kelsey, our own closet Ozzie -- but knowing the basics, they were already primed when the 6 year-old's birthday came three weeks after the game's release.

And they became Beatles. At least in their own sweet heads. Playing on stage with the Fab Four at the Cavern Club, in Shea Stadium, at Abbey Road. They (and their friends) have been mesmerized by the experience of the game and the sense that they are creating the music right alongside the real Beatles.

But then a funny thing happened. Like a lot of parents, before we ever thought of Rock Band we bought a piano (and two guitars, and a drum set) to try to encourage our own little musicians to blossom. Not our efforts, nor the thousands of dollars we've probably paid to instructors over the years, made any real impact -- but Beatles Rock Band did. Both boys now sit and doodle at the piano, or will now and then pick up and strum a real guitar. Lessons are still required, but now the desire is firmly there.

I read that when the Beatles were contemplating developing their version of Rock Band, this was their very premise: Rock Band wasn't a game, but a modern day tool that would bring the joy of music to an age that mostly knows pop tarts (the Brittany Spears/Shakira kind) or what they hear on the radio (which is basically the same stuff that was being played on radio when PacMan was first released). The Beatles were right again. Talk in the language of your audience, and you'll be surprised how deeply you can affect them.

Now all we need is the video game that makes that course on Beowolf enjoyable and we're good to go. Be well.



>> Monday, November 16, 2009

First, a little patting ourselves on the back.

On Friday night, at the Clio Healthcare Awards our work for Ambien CR won not only a Gold Clio (one of only two awarded) but the Grand Clio as well.

The campaign, called Silence Your Rooster, has been acknowledged in and out of the healthcare world as truly breakthrough creative. Accepting the awards for the agency were Andrew Curtis (copywriter) and Jay Marrotte (art director). See the teasers that started it all at See all the winners at

Now, a few words about the show. As this was the very first show of it’s kind, the healthcare theme abounded. Servers were dressed as doctors and nurses and there were x-rays everywhere. I believe I also saw a crash cart serving pasta. It was kitschy and fun (although I could have done without the surgical tubing on the hors d’oeuvres tray).

Special guest, heart surgeon, writer, professor and most recently talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz received the first ever Honorary Clio Healthcare Award.

See you there next year. I’ll be the one not in scrubs.

Helayne Spivak


It's Veteran's Day: Kiss A Soldier!

>> Wednesday, November 11, 2009

91 years ago today marked the official end of the Great War, the “the war to end all wars.” Now, of course, we know that war as World War I, for reasons we all know, all too well.

So November 11th became Armistice Day, which gradually became Veterans’ Day. I’ll be honest -- while Veteran’s Day always makes me think, I don’t observe it in any overt way. I’m not closely connected with any troops in this war (other wars were different).

But on my way to work today I saw a poster for something that gave New Yorkers like me a chance to do something sweet for the people who give so much to so many. Thanks to Cosmopolitan and Maybelline, I (and you too, if you’re in the city today between 7 am and 7 pm!) can send a kiss to a soldier serving overseas. Maybelline is providing the lipstick so you can pucker up on a postcard – with room to write a message of support.

For every kiss collected, Cosmo & Maybelline will donate a $1 to the United Service Organizations (USO), the designated charity partner.

So I’m going to try to help them make their goal of setting a world’s record for most kisses collected. If you want to join me, click here to see the schedule and locations throughout the day!

And today of all days, to our troops, those who love them, and all of us who support and care for them, we here at Saatchi Wellness hope this finds you well.



Wellness In A New City

>> Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Remember what it was like to embark on a new career, in a new city, in a never before seen new apartment (now that’s faith)? Jaime Walker, our winning Big Ad Gig copywriter, reminds us all that wellness is made up of all kinds of choices, including a very positive attitude.

Enjoy her experiences.

~Helayne Spivak


After winning the Saatchi and Saatchi Wellness internship at the Big Ad Gig, I was delirious with happiness. On the plane ride home to Atlanta, it became obvious that I was also delirious with a 101-degree fever. I was sweating. I was chilled. My cough sounded more like emphysema than sore throat. Surprisingly, I couldn’t have been happier. I was a portfolio school student in possession of what is now a rarity: a shot in advertising. I crawled into bed for a week, ready to die happy.

Thankfully, I lived. I landed in NYC this week feeling great, ready to see my new digs in Brooklyn. I began settling into my bedroom, the fourth wall of which is a thin, rickety, bamboo curtain. The curtain doesn’t really provide privacy, but at least it amuses my roommate’s obese cats to constantly attack it. Starving, I bought tons of groceries only to discover that we don’t exactly have a stove or an oven. I took a shower to relax and almost killed myself by forgetting the huge step down out of the very raised tub. My home sweet home is a comedy of errors, and yet every night after work I go to bed smiling.

No, I’m not a masochist. I’ve realized that wellness is a mind/body concept. You can be ecstatic with the flu if you have a great job opportunity. You can love your less than comfortable accommodations if they mean that you’re starting a new adventure. In short, you can use your thinking to improve how your body is feeling.

That’s why I’m excited to be starting at an agency that understands wellness and whose approach to health and pharmaceutical branding is the essence of great advertising: appeal to people’s emotions. Make them feel something, then tell them how they can feel better. So I’m settling in here at Saatchi and Saatchi Wellness and I'm feeling well, like I’m ready for anything. But I’m still taking my vitamins and looking into how much it costs to build a fourth wall. Like I said, I’m not a masochist.

Jaime Walker


The Eternal Debate

>> Monday, November 9, 2009

Mac vs. PC
Star Wars vs. Star Trek
Boxers vs. briefs

Outside of the agency world, bring up any of the above and it's sure to spark a heated debate over a cold pint.

Inside the agency world, however, the fastest way to pick a fight is to pick a side in the "traditional" vs "digital" agency debate. Case in point: the recent AdAge blog post by Ana Andjelic, titled "Why Digital Agencies Aren't Ready to Lead," which is setting off a firestorm of debate from both sides of the aisle.

There is a natural tendency to over-simplify and stereotype each kind of agency—labeling the digital agency as innovative, fresh, and nimble but not very strategic; characterizing traditional agencies as having creative and strategic strength but lacking in terms of experimentation, technology and speed—and these stereotypes are usually the first things people challenge. A quick scan of the article's comments will show you exactly what I'm talking about.

But arguing over the accuracy of a stereotype or debating the merits of one agency type over another overlooks an interesting concept that the article introduces, which is a theory of "exploration vs exploitation". As described by James March, organizations, in an effort to evolve and grow, must balance the "exploration of new possibilities" against "the exploitation of old certainties." Do they invest in an unknown future at the expense of current profit? Or do they play to current strengths and reap immediate benefit while sacrificing in the long term? As someone who has helped an agency change over the past several years, I know all too well how challenging it is to find the right balance between these two opposable forces.

Whether you agree with the overall sentiment of the post (that digital agencies just don't get it) or not, it's clear that the rapidly changing needs of our clients are the driving force behind this evolution. They need agencies that are capable of generating innovative ideas while mastering execution, and ones that can demonstrate success in both mass channels and more precise and measurable ones. Regardless of how they are labeled, agencies that "get" this will succeed; those that don't will struggle.

Time will tell if it's the digital agencies or traditional ones that ultimately "win" this battle to balance exploration and exploitation, but everyone stands to benefit as a result. Continued evolution, and therefore competition, leads to a stronger marketplace, where ideas are better, the solutions more innovative, and our clients are more successful in achieving their goals.

When that happens, not only will agencies and clients win, but our consumers do too.


Learning by Degrees...

>> Thursday, November 5, 2009

I’m teaching a portfolio class for the wonderful Miami Ad School. The students, as always, are smart, challenging and extremely talented. I began the very first class by talking about what I look for when I look through a creative person’s book. Namely, a solid idea. I heard one of my students say under his breath…”Isn’t that kinda old fashioned”. For a second I thought he was talking about my boots from 3 seasons ago so I asked him what was so old fashioned? He said…”All this talk about the big idea. That’s not the way we do things”. How did he do things? He informed me that what he did 360 degree thinking. I informed him and the rest of the class that continuous 360 degree thinking without a solid idea is what is called “Going In Circles”. That’s not old fashioned or new fashioned that’s just a fact. A cool idea for a brand, that doesn’t relate to, come from or build the brand is just a very un-cool waste of time and money. What made Burger King’s Subservient Chicken idea so good wasn’t only that it was so wonderfully weird, it’s that it came directly out of Burger King’s HAVE IT YOUR WAY heritage. And if 360 degree thinking is so important (and it is) why is it that so many young creative's books are filled with web sites and phone apps and little else? Seems like that’s only about 43 degrees of the circle. Where else do we connect? How else can we socially interact? Are we confusing tactics with ideas? So, this term, we’re going to concentrate on big, old-fashioned ideas. Presented in ways that weren’t even imagined a few years ago.

Helayne Spivak


"Slow Is The New Fast"

>> Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Years ago, I was obsessed with a Cy Coleman / Dorothy Fields musical called Seesaw. It starred Tommy Tune and featured a song called “It’s Not Where You Start.” It came back to mind this morning, when I was reading Tara Parker-Pope’s story in the New York Times about her experience running the ING New York City Marathon.

Tara writes that she was “at the back of the pack of the estimated 43,000 who participated in the New York City Marathon, and I was thrilled to be there.” Like most of the runners out that day, she was not out to gain anything but a sense of doing her best. And you've got to love the slogan on her shirt: “Slow Is the New Fast.”

There was someone else out there this weekend too, someone we have an especially soft spot for. Zoe Koplowitz holds the world record for the longest time to finish a marathon (sorry, Tara!): she also has multiple sclerosis (MS) and diabetes.This year, Zoe completed a mind-blowing 21st consecutive NYC marathon, after 28 hours and 45 minutes.

That’s a Monday afternoon finish, for a race that started Sunday morning. Apart from helping to raise awareness about MS, and more than $210,000 to fight it, Zoe showed us something else: you don’t have to come in first to win.

The lyrics to that song from Seesaw, by the way? They go like this:

It's not where you start, it's where you finish
It's not how you go, it's how you land
A hundred to one shot, you call him a clutz
Can out run the favorite, all he needs is the guts
Your final return will not diminish
And you can be the cream of the crop
It's not where you start, it's where you finish
And you're gonna finish on top!

Here’s hoping you’re well.



The Business of Wellness

>> Friday, October 30, 2009

Last night we attended the MM&M awards, held at the tony (and for the moment between-owners-because-times-are-hard) Tavern on the Green here in New York. The MM&M awards purports to be a celebration of 'effectiveness and creativity in healthcare communications' -- kind of the Oscars of the pharma business -- and the black-tie crowd was ripe with anticipation whether their tears, sweat & ideas would be recognized by a jury of their peers.

We had a few campaigns in contention -- we were fortunate enough to be seated with our Sanofi Aventis clients -- and as we sat back and watched the room a funny thought crossed my mind.

Healthcare advertising is, as a genre, thought to be fodder for Saturday Night Live skits (and it has been a well earned reputation) sort of the very tail end of the advertising thought train. But last night, we saw two things -- some really insightful, relevant and well-shot work and smart, engaging media thinking. A mix of engagement and integration across communications channels that the marketing business as a whole says is 'the future'.

And here it was, some of the players in the staid old pharma business (OK, it wasn't everybody) with a point-of-view -- this is how you do it, this is how you engage patients and drive sales. Doing it today. Sometimes the smartest ideas aren't the most glamorous, but that doesn't make the thinking any less attractive.

It was a night about relevance, great execution and marketing for the future (which is why, when Saatchi Wellness won the award for best online campaign for our Transitions work -- forgive the blatant plug -- I felt extremely pleased for my colleagues and our way of doing things). Because a lot of what we saw last night is the business of the future and the people in that room last night seemed to get it.


She Was Rolling Out The Dough When We Arrived ...

>> Friday, October 23, 2009

Vacations were invented for a reason: to unwind, relax, and reconnect. With your loved ones, and perhaps even with yourself. Our head of strategic planning, Johanna Skilling, recently found that vacations can also reconnect you with your own history.

Hope this finds you well -- Jim.


Here’s a simple recipe for chestnuts: boil whole raw chestnuts in water to which bay leaves have been added. When the chestnuts are soft, cool, peel and eat. Delicious.

And an idea for dessert: cut dried figs (preferably white) almost in half; don’t separate the halves completely. Put a toasted almond in the hollow of the fig; close up the two halves, enclosing the almond. Eat (as if I needed to add that). Heavenly.

I know these things because my significant other, who henceforth is to be known as “il mio compagno,” and I recently dropped in on relatives – whom we’d never met – in San Nicola a Mare, a town the size of a pindot in a part of Italy called the Cilento… tucked between Campagna and Calabria along the western coast, facing the Tyrrhenian Sea.

A century ago, two brothers lived there. The younger brother, Bernardino, like so many other young men from his region, went to America as a teenager in search of opportunity. Who knows if he ever meant to go back one day? He settled in Paterson, NJ, married a girl from the old country, and had five children. I, if you hadn’t guessed by now, was on the road with one of Bernardino’s grandchildren.

The older brother, Vincenzo, stayed in Italy, also raising five children in the town he and his parents had been born in. So on the last day of our Italian vacation, we were driving down to see the town where it all began. We were visiting one of Vincenzo’s grandsons, Tonino, and his wife Antonella.

Now there was a wrinkle. Despite the fact that il mil compagno had grown up with his Italian-speaking grandparents, and despite the fact that I’ve studied Italian on and off since college, neither of us speaks the language. OK, I speak about 7 words. Tonino speaks about the same amount of English, Antonella none at all. We had been communicating via email through their son, Dino, who lives in Milan.

We thought we’d been pretty clear that we were arriving Friday afternoon. But Dino had told his parents it might be Thursday, it might be Friday. So when I called Antonella from the road, she said something like (loosely translated), you’re coming NOW?

And yet… it was magical. They offered a life lesson in the art of generosity, welcome and hospitality. The figs and the chestnuts were part of an instantly conjured feast of homemade ravioli (Antonella was rolling out the dough when we arrived); freshly caught fish – as in the previous evening -- marinated in lemon and olive oil, sausage from the local macelleria, hunks of Parmesan, homemade biscotti and wine made by a son-in-law in his kitchen. We pored over family pictures and a hastily drawn family tree to share stories. The afternoon ended on their rooftop patio, dancing for the video cameras, in sight of the sea.

Funny thing. We didn’t speak much of each other’s language, but we understood each other perfectly.

Here’s hoping you’re looking forward to your next adventure.

- Johanna Skilling, Director of Strategic Planning at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness


Having a Baby Changes Everything -- Even More Than You Think

>> Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Having a baby totally changes your life -- trust me, I know -- mine changed drastically a little over 16 years ago. Yikes!

William Martino here at the agency just recently had a baby, one in a string of new births in our family here at Saatchi Wellness. The baby not only changed his life, but also changed his outlook on our healthcare system, something that we deal with personally and professionally every day of our life.

Read here his mind-blogging account of what is supposed to be the happiest day of your life. There must be a better way?!

Hope this finds you well -- Jim.


Despite working in the healthcare space and all the attention our industry receives on a daily basis, it's very easy to keep yourself at arms length from some of the issues and concerns we debate regularly. It's only when you are thrust into the system that these issues are a lot closer to home than expected.

About a month ago, when my wife and I happily welcomed a new daughter into our lives, I found myself in the middle of industry change—where traditional, paper-based systems were slowly being challenged by modern, digital ones. We gave birth in a hospital in New York City, and were surrounded by technology at every turn both leading up to the birth and throughout the delivery (everything from 3D ultrasounds and fetal heart monitors to "LoJack" tags that are worn by newborns so they don't leave the safety of the recovery floor). But despite the existence of all that technology, I couldn't get past how it was juxtaposed so starkly against mounds of paper and antiquated systems.

The inefficiencies of these legacy systems were almost mind numbing. A few examples:
  • Filling out our new patient forms ahead of time, only to have to do it all over again because our info was never put "in the system" by hospital administration
  • Having to find somewhere I could download and print a consent form (which we completed and gave to our doctor a week prior) that was mysteriously missing from our chart (Funny aside: I found a Staples Print & Copy Center, which was closed, and ended up begging the manager to let me in. Bless his heart, he did and didn't charge me to use the computer or printer. Having a wife in labor really is the perfect excuse! Talk about a brand leaving you with a positive experience...)
  • And my favorite, receiving my daughter's "Health Record"—a yellow piece of paper the state uses to track things like immunizations and screenings—and being told by the nurse, "Don't lose this—you have to bring it to EVERY doctor appointment. They won't let her in school without it." Now, I don't know about you, but the thought of carrying around, and not accidentally misplacing or spilling coffee on, a single piece of paper for the next 18 years doesn't seem like the most reliable way to track someone's medical history
I kept thinking to myself, "there has to be a better way." Why couldn't I register with the hospital online? Why isn't there a central database that tracks things like my daughter's immunizations so I don't have to worry about losing a stupid piece of paper?

Of course, there IS a better way. Over the past several years, companies like Google, Microsoft, Web MD, and Revolution Health (among others) have launched a variety of Personal Health Records (PHR's) and other web-based systems to help patients take control of their health data, share it with their healthcare team, and ultimately make informed decisions about what it all means. The days of calling your doctor to retrieve your chart are slowly coming to an end.

These solutions, however, are not without their own challenges and controversies, the biggest of which being patient privacy. There is nothing more intimate than one's own health and the thought of personalized health information being used against you by employers, insurance companies, or opportunistic marketers is a scary one. As I fantasized about how cool it would be to manage something like the above mentioned Health Record digitally (yes, this is the kind of thing a digital strategist fantasizes about)—where I could grant access to various physicians to update it, automatically track my daughter's height & weight against growth curves, get contextual help about what the data means, etc—I couldn't help but think about her privacy and whether I would really be comfortable with that data sitting out "in the cloud."

A recent article in Wired opened my mind to the other side of this debate—all the benefits that we can reap by responsibly collecting, sharing, and analyzing this data. Rather than protect this information, what if we were able to analyze it to identify patterns and trends that can help shape our future in ways we never imagined? Sites like PatientsLikeMe, for example, give us a glimpse of what data driven health might look like: drug companies can study real-world results, in addition to clinical trial data, to improve therapies; patients can compare experiences and connect with other patients to build powerful new support systems that are based on more than just anecdotal feelings; and, as the Wired article suggests, physicians would know what other practitioners are prescribing and see the effectiveness of those decisions, ultimately improving patient care.

This debate continues, but we can look to other industries for a glimpse of how it may end. There was a day when the thought of managing our finances electronically was just as frightening (heck, I know a few luddites that still don't trust it), but now it's commonplace and I couldn't imagine my life without it. Any concerns about identity theft and privacy, while still real, are overshadowed by the speed, convenience, and efficiencies of a paperless world. But it was only when the various financial institutions got on board and we reached critical mass in terms of access that the scales tipped and adoption spread.

Whether from the top (by technology companies), from the bottom (empowered patients), or simply because of time (younger generations who are much more comfortable sharing their life data), pressures are being applied to the healthcare system—much like they were applied to the financial system—and the day is coming where a digitized system will be the only system. Physician offices, health insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmacies will either change the way they do business or they won't do business at all.

Until then, I'll have to find a safe place to keep that Health Record.

- William Martino, Digital Strategist at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness


No Kidding, Me Too!

>> Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I had the absolute pleasure of attending the premiere of a new documentary from "Joey Pants" and his NKM2 (No Kidding, Me Too!) organization. 

That's the Joey Pants from The Sopranos and the Matrix and The Goonies, etc. Great guy, unbelievably talented.

NKM2's mission is to eliminate the stigma around mental illness and have it be treated socially and medically like any other medical condition. In fact Joey has renamed it "brain dis-ease" to eradicate the notion of it being an "mental" and an "illness".

It's brain disease, along the lines of heart disease or any other medically relevant, socially accepted disease.

The documentary is moving beyond description. It follows several people from various backgrounds as they face their own brain disease, including several people from the Iraq war.

Some of those folks were also in the audience, which totally brought it all to life. I met Jordan, a teenager who attempted suicide and survived, along with his mom. It's taken him a couple years but he is on the path to health. She is clearly very proud of her son.

I have tremendous respect for what Joey is doing with his organization and also for his own brain disease which is battles himself.

It's still very early in the process, but when you do have the chance to see the documentary, please do. In the meantime, learn more about brain disease and NKM2 at

Hope this finds you well -- Jim.


CLIO Healthcare Awards

>> Monday, October 19, 2009

The folks at CLIO are doing something very smart this year -- dedicating a distinct set of awards to marketing in the healthcare industry.

It's not because I don't think that healthcare marketing can stand up to any other industry. I personally believe that every industry does great work that produces solid results. Healthcare as much as any consumer good. The fact that our work helps to save lives just tosses it over the edge for me.

But the truth is that high-profile creativity trumps a lot of the other thinking so it's hard for healthcare brands' work to sit along side Nike, Coca-Cola, and Burger King and win an industry award. So let's separate it out and give it its due attention.

The awards are coming up on November 13th and our agency is not only attending, and not only sponsoring, but also being recognized.

I just received notice that we are on the "short list" in the television category for our work on Ambien CR -- "Silence Your Rooster".

We are so happy to be listed and thrilled beyond belief to get a mention in the first annual CLIO Healthcare Awards.

See you on the 13th? And have a drink on us!

Hope this finds you well -- Jim.


Thoughts on the DTC Fall Conference

>> Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yesterday was day one of the DTC Fall Conference and also the second annual Hall of Fame Awards.

It was a pretty cool day, actually. The topic was healthcare reform for the most part. And although the subjects did get on the heavy side, there was an overwhelming sense of hope.

Hope that as an industry we can figure out how to continue to engage with consumers about their health and wellness, along side those grappling with the legislative and insurance issues of regulation and reform.

The stats are amazing in terms of how consumers are now more engaged in their own health than ever -- and are going online to learn and share. No amount of criticism or no lengthy debate is going to stop that. A lot of the attention has been historically been paid to television advertising which is really just one part of the mix. Television advertising still has a role, but much of the action is online where consumers are living their lives.

I moderated a panel at the end of the day which was a lot of fun. The big takeaway is that we all need to get involved in the reform. We need to state our opinion and we need to work for what we feel is right.

At the Hall of Fame Awards last night, four industry icons were inducted. Including a friend of the agency, Herb Ehrenthal. These four folks are incredible. They have devoted their careers to marketing healthcare to consumers, and in the process have improved the lives of so many through their work.

It's days like these when I remember why I got into marketing in the first place, for all the chances to create and change and grow. As an individual and an industry.

Let's see what day two brings!

Hope this finds you well -- Jim.


In Anticipation of DTC Conference

>> Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Today I am moderating a panel at the annual Fall DTC Conference, and I am really looking forward to it. There are only a few times a year where so many constituents in health and wellness marketing get together under one roof -- clients, agencies, suppliers, regulators, consultants, etc.

The topic this year is reform, and not just the government kind. We need to figure out how to change our industry in this age of constant change.

I have worked across so many categories in my career -- pharma, OTCs, beauty, automotive, hospitality, food, insurance -- you name it. And in every case, as good marketers we always put the consumer first. I'm not sure that's the case in pharmaceutical marketing and in all this talk about healthcare reform. 

I won't enter the debate right here, but suffice it to say that if perhaps we all put the consumer first, we would be better guided and more aligned.

See you at the conference?

Hope this finds you well -- Jim.


The Social Media Revolution

>> Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You may have seen this video on YouTube --- it's a very compelling take on the revolution in social media that is happening right before our eyes. Totally worth a view if you have not seen it.

The part that hit me the most is the length of time it has taken for social media to hit critical mass, as compared to other "revolutions" in our recent past like internet usage, television, and radio.

Climb on board because the train has left the station.

Hope this finds you well -- Jim.


Large vs. Small Agencies

>> Friday, October 9, 2009

This is perhaps the best article I've read about the difference between large and small agencies ... or independent and network agencies, depending on your perspective.

It's not at all that one is better than the other. Or smarter, or cheaper. Quite the contrary. The point here is that it's all about the client/agency match. No judgements about pricing or network models, just a simple argument that a client should match its needs and perspectives to the type of agency it selects.

Perfect. I won't say more --- just read the article!

Hope this finds you well -- Jim


Pass the Turkey

>> Thursday, October 8, 2009

It's Fall - my favorite time of year. Sweaters, scarfs, the changing landscape. Pumpkin spice latte. And the holidays!

Which brings something to mind -- turkey! I never eat turkey except during the holidays, why is that?

This season one turkey brand in particular is leveraging not only the holidays, but the continued movement towards wellness and the effects of the economy.

Hormel's Jenn-O Turkey Brand. Never heard of it? The brand just launched what I consider to be a very insightful campaign. BrandWeek ran an article about it a bit ago:

What's impressive about the new campaign is all the cultural factors that it pulls on:
- the always out there, ever green attempt to lose weight (turkey helps promote weight loss)
- the economy (turkey is a more affordable meat option)
- a shift away from convenience/versatility to wellness (less about having multiple options and more about changing the way you look and feel)
- a tie in with the phenomenon "The Biggest Loser" (tv show and assorted other properties all about transforming yourself)

The "talent" is the father and son team who lost more than 400 pounds combined on "The Biggest Loser" last season. An incredible transformation that they attribute to the brand.

The Hormel Jenn-O brand folks have obviously done their wellness homework. Impressive!

Hope this finds you well -- Jim.


Searching for Pharma

>> Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It seems that the pharmaceutical industry is either taking direction literally or running scared.

Search, SEM, Sponsored links.
Remember earlier this year when the FDA sent warning letters to almost every pharmaceutical company regarding practices around online search. The FDA maintains that, just like with any other communication media, information around benefits and risks must be balanced. Even with search.

So in other words, when a brand talks about what that the drug does, it must also talk about the risks associated with it. In some places that's easier to do than in others. Certainly search creates a challenge.

The response from pharmaceutical companies? According to an AdAge article today, the industry has severely dropped its use of sponsored links (paid search) by 84%:

Makes sense, actually. As an industry we need to figure out the rules of engagement here and as an industry we need to work with the FDA to come up with a good solution around these kinds of issues. As an industry, we have not done that yet.

Enter the upcoming Open Forum from the FDA. Good call and long overdue. I look forward to it.

Hope this finds you well -- Jim.


Botox Off Label Use

>> Tuesday, October 6, 2009

In a somewhat stunning, and certainly proactive move, Allergan filed a suit against the FDA for banning off label use of Botox. The company is citing "free speech" as its argument. Bold.

When you cut through the clutter of the matter, what's really happening is that Allergan is in a Botox box. If they actively talk about off label use, then they have to provide data which comes under incredible scrutiny and potential penalties from the FDA. If they don't talk about off label use, then they still come under incredible scrutiny and potential penalties.

So what's a brand to do? Try to change the situation, even with the government.

I don't know enough about the brand and the data to say if off label use is right or wrong in this situation.  Off label uses of Botox include some pretty serious medical issues and also migraine headaches -- not just wrinkle reduction. 

But I do commend Allergan for putting themselves out there and taking a stand, even with the government.

You can read more about the situation in this Business Week article:

Hope this finds you well -- Jim.