Show 81 – Healthcare Marketing – Cannes Lions 2019

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The first of three episodes recorded at the 2019 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, this show focuses on Healthcare Marketing and including:

  1. Zuleika Burnett, Executive Director for Creative and Innovation at Havas Life Medicom talking about the power of the spoken word and the benefits of podcasting to healthcare (featuring an exclusive interview with Podcaster Petra Velzeboe)
  2. Claire Gillis, International CEO of WPP Health on , ‘China and the Health Explosion’
  3. Atilla Cansun, Merck Consumer Health CMO at P&G Health discussing his talk on ‘Engaging with HCPs: Doctors are not robots!’

Part 1 – The power of the spoken word and the benefits of podcasting to healthcare

Our first interview was recorded at the Havas Café.  Russell Goldsmith spoke with Zuleika Burnett, Executive Director for Creative and Innovation at Havas Life Medicom about the presentation they had given earlier at the festival on the Lions Health stage on the topic of ‘The Power of the spoken word and benefits of podcasting for healthcare’.

Russell & Zuleika presenting on the Lions Health stage


Chatting with Havas Life Medicom’s Zuleika Burnett in the Havas Cafe at Cannes Lions

Zuleika said that what had inspired her to talk about the topic at Cannes was when Russell interviewed her in Cannes in 2016 for the csuite podcast about the Lions Health Awards. She said it was a relaxed interview with a natural conversation. However, what then hit home for her about the true power of podcasting was hearing a further csuite podcast interview with Haiyan Zhang, Innovation Director at Microsoft Research Cambridge about a project she worked on where she created a life changing device to help people with Parkinson’s and that was called Project Emma.

In their presentation, Russell described that interview as co-created content between brand, designer and producer, i.e., Russell, interviewing Haiyan and enabling her to tell hers and Emma’s story in such an engaging and captivating way.

Zuleika sees podcasting as a huge opportunity in health as it’s a relatively simple format to use as a communications tool.  However, she added that we are living in a moment of shift and that podcasting is becoming really hot.  She referred to Reuters Institute Digital News Report that points to the fact that about a third of people are listening to podcasts on a regular basis. She went on to say that in healthcare, they need more tools not just pills as just taking more pills is probably not the answer  – they need to change behaviours, they need people to live more healthily, eat better, sleep better, exercise … all of which requires people to change their behaviours. However, she added that they need a purpose and a meaning to change their behaviours and storytelling can really bridge that gap between just understanding and turning that understanding to action and motivation.

Russell referred to further research that they had carried out by Yolo Communications for their presentation where they surveyed UK podcast listeners, finding that 25% of them listened to specific podcasts around healthcare. Of that 25%, 57% of them listened to podcasts around mental health and well-being, 51% on general health care, but other specialist topics that they were listening to included asthma, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cholesterol and arthritis.  When asked why they listen to those podcasts, the reasons included giving them more information about the condition, because it gave them hope and positivity but also a sense of community.

Picking up on the community point, Zuleika referred to the BBC podcast You, Me and the Big C, which was originally hosted by Deborah James, Lauren Mahon and Rachael Bland.  Rachel sadly died in September last year, but the other two presenters continued with the podcast and Zuleika believes the reason it’s been so successful is because they are producing regular content, with nothing seeming to get in their way. The fact that they are themselves sick and going through a terrible time is actually almost like their bodies are weaker, but their voices are stronger.  She said that they are just absolutely relentlessly getting their message out and it’s so real, they’re talking about stuff that you don’t hear if you read articles about people living with cancer, and that you don’t really see it in the press that often – it’s so raw, so real and so compelling, that she thinks it’s probably the most meaningful content and information if you were experiencing yourself cancer or you knew someone with cancer.  Zuleika believes that the information and the education it provides is priceless. The presenters interviewed Rachel’s husband, before she died, about how he was hoping to cope without her and the effect of cancer on families. They visited the Francis Crick Institute and talked about specialists and about how cancer research is advancing and they even recorded a podcast from hospital and they talked about end of life care as a topic in its own right.  Zuleika said that there is so much information and a lot of the time they’re actually laughing with some of the content being extremely funny and yet they’re kind of almost laughing in the face of the negative, so for her, they are incredible.

Russell said that whilst the example earlier of Haiyan was of co-created content, this kind of podcasting was very much personal content, i.e. people sharing a lived experience.  In their talk, he had shared another example of just that in a clip from another recent csuite podcast episode when we interviewed Dagmar Mackett of DRPG about the internal communications campaign she produced for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) that featured three video stories of JLR employees who had suffered from mental health.

What was interesting about when we produced that podcast was that when we played a clip from the video case study of Matt, a senior manager at JLR who had had a stress related breakdown which caused him to consider taking his own life, everyone in the studio at the time agreed that listening to Matt’s voice on his own without the supporting video content potentially made his story even more powerful.

Dagmar said the same in a video clip she shared for Russell & Zuleika’s talk:

Zuleika said that that deep engagement is something they lack in a lot of the communications healthcare is producing. For example, she felt that video content is getting shorter and shorter and more and more chopped up and it’s all about short bursts of content that people don’t have time to consume.  Therefore, a lot of marketers are challenging themselves to make their content easier to consume and therefore shorter as opposed to thinking about deeper content that can be repeated or created over time.

Russell added that the average podcast is around 40 minutes and with subscribers listening to on average 80-90% of what they download, it becomes a huge amount of time that a brand can engage with their audience for if choosing to use podcasting.

Zuleika agreed. She said that when you talk about behaviour change, if that was the goal of a podcast series, then that will take time, as people don’t change their behaviour overnight.  Therefore, getting continuous ongoing engagement, coming up with different people to interview, visiting places, all the different audiences that you could involve in your topic and becoming that authoritative voice in your topic and the expert, is a key opportunity.

Within their presentation, Russell shared a video of the interview he carried out with a healthcare podcaster, Petra Velzeboer.  He explained that Petra has an incredible story herself.  She was born and raised in a religious cult where she travelled the world but had no access to formal education when growing up but has since retrained as a psychotherapist and is now an executive coach and a regular corporate speaker.  Petra presents two podcasts around Mental Health, one of which is a Spotify original, but the one he spoke to her about was her series, Adversity to Advantage, where she gathers stories from people from a range of backgrounds who have struggled in some way with the aim of trying to understand resilience.

What Zuleika loves about Petra’s story and podcast is the fact that it’s something that you can’t predict. She said it’s that unpredictability about where a good story might come from and actually the personal stories that are the things that are so compelling about podcasting.   She added that healthcare is rich with personal stories – stories about hope in the face of despair, about compassion in the face of suffering or courage in the face of adversity, all those stories that really connect and inspire other people and about being human.  The call therefore is for healthcare brands to produce more podcasts and get those stories told as there are so many audiences from doctors, patients, nurses, patient advocates, who could talk about their experiences, whether it’s on the frontline of health or whether it’s someone suffering from a chronic disease, whatever it might be.

If you want to find out more about creating podcasts, get in touch with Russell via the contact form at AudereCommunications.com.

Part 2 – China and the Health Explosion

For part two of this episode, we returned to the ICCO House of PR who were kindly hosting us for a fourth year at Cannes Lions.

Russell was joined by Claire Gillis, International CEO of WPP Health, who had presented earlier that morning at the Festival on the topic of ‘China and the health explosion’ where she was on stage with Dr. Jun Wu, one of the earliest successful biotechnology entrepreneurs in China.

With Claire Gillis, International CEO of WPP Health in the ICCO House of PR at Cannes Lions

Claire said that they had a full house in their presentation, which she wasn’t surprised at when you look at the Chinese market, where she feels there’s so much going on and so much innovation.

The synopsis of Claire’s talk said that by 2030, the number of Chinese citizens over 60 will be greater than the entire US population, which will excite some people in terms of growth opportunity, but will also lead to an increasing healthcare burden too. Claire thinks, therefore, that there needs to be or there is planning to be an entire revamp of the Chinese healthcare system. She said this has to happen because:

  1. it can’t cope
  2. just getting the people through the system is problematic.

Claire explained that the reason for that is that there is no primary care service in China. So, when you’re a patient and you think you’re sick, you probably self-diagnose and then you ping around the system until you find a specialist that can actually diagnose what you have. The implications of that are that it’s a longer time to diagnosis, which she said is tough, as you might have a problem that’s asymptomatic, or you might be diabetic, in which case, by the time you get treated the damage has been done and you can’t reverse it, which has an impact later on in the system because it will cost the Chinese government or the insurance companies more to fix that long term problem.

The way to addressing these issues, according to Claire, is to make sure we tailor our messages so that we can educate people to take responsibility for their own healthcare and to get a better outcome.

Claire added that another slightly unique thing about the Chinese population in healthcare is that there are fewer doctors than there needs to be for the population. She said that a Chinese doctor will see between 160 and 200 patients a day. They therefore have no time to communicate properly, which is why we have to find different ways to communicate, educate and change behaviours. It’s therefore about creativity, about tailoring and communications and about using data tech.

Part 3 – Engaging with HCPs: Doctors are not robots!

Our final guest on this episode was Atilla Cansun, Chief Marketing Officer for Merck Consumer Health brands at P&G Health, who spoke about the presentation he gace earlier that day on the Health Inspiration stage at Cannes Lions, looking at how we should be talking to doctors and other health care professionals to improve the engagement that they have with brands.

With Atilla Cansun, Merck Consumer Health CMO at P&G Health in the ICCO House of PR at Cannes Lions

Atilla believes that the pharma industry makes the mistake of treating doctors as customers not humans. He said it’s because on all the companies in the industry, there’s a certain pressure for achieving the results, the sales numbers, and profit numbers and only a few companies are able to separate themselves and focus on the fact that there’s a human inside and the humans recognise the human side of the doctors and of the health care professionals in general. He added that therefore, P&G Health’s mantra is to prioritise the brand building, recognising the doctor and the healthcare professional as the target group of the brand rather than a customer and a business partner to make money with, and everything else therefore solves itself.

Atilla shared some examples of how P&G Health, working with their Merck legacy brands, nurture emotional connections with healthcare professionals.  He said that there are consequences out of humanising a relationship with doctors, and talked about ‘Brand over business’ – where you consider the health care professional, the doctor, as you consider the consumer the target group of your brand building – this will help you realise they’re humans and it’s not only about proving, convincing, making your point, stimulating the left brain but it’s just as much about also evoking some sympathy, feeling closer, attracted, feeling understood, which is the right part of the brain. He added that a lot of the executions and conversations they have had with doctors have been derived from recognising that this is actually brand building with healthcare professionals more than anything else and therefore move themselves and the organisation away from the pressure of business in sales and prescriptions and become much more focused on how their image or perception is improving over time.

Atilla said that ‘brand over business’ is the overarching umbrella, underneath which they have two themes.

  1. Putting the focus on the patients. He said that a lot of the time the healthcare industry, again due to pressure to do business, talks about the company and how great it is, their products and ingredients of the products and how they exactly work, or in the hopes of scoring with the doctor, praising them.  However, he said that the focus has to be on the patient – real patients, real stories, their wishes, expectations, maybe worries and complaints, which then immediately brings that brand much closer to the heart of the doctor, because day in day out they are basically living the patient’s stories.
  2. Delight don’t drain. Attila said that 80% of materials that are shared with doctors are graphs – data being expressed in charts etc. Therefore, they see graph after graph after graph, which drains their energy. Atilla believes that if you ask a pharmacist or a doctor the reason why they have become not a mathematician or an engineer, it will be because they wanted to interact with and help people – not to be drained and bogged down by data.  Therefore, great design, a visual identity that’s recognisable, pleases them but has also the impact.  It reminds them of a certain treatment category, so it doesn’t get lost in the sea of ‘similars’.  , as well as I think the lighting has also the aspect of educating without burdening

Atilla gave the example of Neurobion®, which he said is [P&G Health’s] Vitamin B proposition. He explained that they put the spending against replicating what the patients, day to day may be experiencing due to a lack of vitamin B and due to lack of nerve care that they are receiving.  Therefore a doctor or a pharmacist or any healthcare professional in that arena, by seeing how difficult it is if you lose the sensitivity on your fingertips to unbutton your shirt when you come back from work or in the morning when you’re buttoning your shirts, or what it feels like to have tingling that patients call ‘ants walking on my hands’, it makes it more powerful for them.  This helps the healthcare professional to recognise the and perception that is verbalised by the patient that has walked into their practice.

Atilla said it’s extremely important to have ongoing market research when you are going for a shift in your strategy direction, taking a choice to emotionalise your messaging and go after having a brand image that has also emotional components. He said that you need to better track yourself as to how you’re making improvements, so that you’re not burning money and instead are actually making an impact on getting the doctors and healthcare professionals ‘warmed up’ to that treatment category and make them familiar with the signals and symptoms that they need to diagnose.   Therefore he said that market research plays a pivotal role in tracking very frequently how individual pieces of conversation or messages that are out there are perceived, what their impact is, what is the response of the healthcare professionals.

With thanks to Havas for hosting us in their Havas Cafe for the first interview, and to ICCO for hosting us at their House of PR for the second and third interviews.


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