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.


Best Way to Relax on the Weekend

>> Sunday, October 4, 2009

It is so important to take time to relax -- it's an important factor in our overall wellness. For me, that only ever happens on the weekends, and honestly I have to push it to make it happen even then.
But I have to say that I did just spent the most relaxing weekend ever, doing absolutely nothing! calls relaxation "perhaps the single most important key to health and well-being." Relaxation helps to reduce stress which many have said is the biggest contributor to poor health. It also gives the heart a rest -- reduces blood pressure and muscle tension -- and helps you to sleep at night.
The best part is that relaxation restores your energy. In this crazy world we live, it's important to rest and relax, at least once in awhile!

I discovered a fun little website called over the weekend. It compiles visitors thoughts on the "best stuff". You can click in to see other's opinions on the best of whatever it is that you are looking for.

In my super relaxation mode, I punched in "best way to relax on the weekend" and here's what I got:
- getting lost in a song
- shopping
- travelling
- taking long shower or bath
- having a massage
- swimming (although this certainly does NOT give your heart a rest!)

The first three certainly hit home ... and for me running does the trick every morning!

I hope this finds you well -- Jim.


Best Presentation in the World

>> Friday, October 2, 2009 ran a competition for the best slidedeck in the world and they posted the winner here:

As business people, we sadly live in a "powerpoint" (should I have TM'd that?!) world. I'm guilty too. So I thought that this was interesting in a few areas:

- Clever marketing from to get the word out about their site (I wouldn't have noticed otherwise)
- The winner used very old school creative techniques and it was the simplicity of those techniques that presumably helped to "win"
- Despite the nature of almost all presentation slides that I've seen, visuals rule when it comes to communication

The fun part here is reading all the comments that were posted after the winner was announced. Since the winning deck was about healthcare reform, a lot of folks couldn't separate content from design. They couldn't help themselves but to comment more on the healthcare debate then on whether this was a well crafted presentation. Perhaps they are right, it's hard to say a presentation is "best in the world" if you don't agree with the content.

The "world" part also caught people off guard because it seems that the contest is very US-centric. The internet has taught us that if you are going to say "world" then it better be "world".

Interesting, that's all.

Hope this finds you well -- Jim.