Jun5

A Case Study: Unlearning

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“Fail, fail again, fail better.” Samuel Beckett

I have this fear of making mistakes.

I find that I’m always second-guessing and triple-checking myself in most things I do because of that fear. When I do end up making a mistake, I find that I spend about 5 minutes scolding myself and wondering how it could have all been avoided. Let me just say that I find about 10 different ways to answer that question.

But isn’t making mistakes a part of life?

Yes. Everyone makes mistakes in life but it is how you bounce back from those mistakes that defines you. I recently listened to a podcast where the focus was on learning and unlearning. To “unlearn” means to let go of what you have already learned or acquired. To unlearn, you have to be open to letting go of what has been pushed on you for so long, pressing the pause button, and relearning all over again—but this time, the right way for you.

After some research, I decided that the time was right for me to start unlearning a few things—therein began my month of renewing my mind. Here is one thing I’ve “unlearned” thus far:

1. All mistakes are bad.

I recently came across an article in the Harvard Business Review about “The Wisdom of Deliberate Mistakes.” Paul J.H. Schoemaker and Robert E. Gunther, the authors of the article, state that “the resistance to making mistakes runs deep, creating traps in thinking and decision making”—a statement that I wholeheartedly agree with. I believe the No. 1 thing that gets in the way of us being our best creatively is fear. I am learning to call my mistakes “experiments.” We live in a world of trial and error, and sometimes the greatest things can come out of simple experiments. As a wise person once told me, “It’s all about where the creative work is taking you and not where you are trying to take it.”

I have come to believe that in our line of work, especially in the creative department, we shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes. Embrace it because some of the greatest innovations have come from just the simplest mistakes. Don’t believe me? Take some time and research how one of the antibiotics widely used today—penicillin—was created.

I’m still on my journey of unlearning, and if you would like to learn a little bit more, feel free to reach out!

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May12

Product Launch Made to Work

Product Launch Blog ImageIntroducing a new product into the highly diluted pharmaceutical market is no easy feat. Our industry spares no time for coming up short of flawless, where the barriers to entry are a proverbial North Korea for the inexperienced and unprepared. The road to success is windy and narrow, but once achieved, the view is unmatched.

In today’s marketplace, suppliers are red-flagged for doing things the way they have in the past, and the competitive edge gained is in the ability to differentiate completely in some cases, and only partially in others.

How can we differentiate ourselves?

For a baseline, any transaction within the pharmaceutical space is a complex sale. The traditional model of selling a product, handling the logistics, and looking forward to a reorder does not cut it. As suppliers, we must adapt to the notion that we are no longer offering or launching a product, but rather have entered the era of solution-based selling. We must come to terms with the reality that being “geared” toward a client or industry is no longer acceptable, and complete customization comes at little or no extra revenue.

Make no mistake: selling a product is still physical, but an in-depth understanding of the customers’ base is now essential to the sale of a creation. The utilization of that understanding is to align our goals to match the customers’ needs. The result of a properly executed alignment is the transformation of the supplier into the partner. By outgrowing the paradigm of being the wholesaler, and embracing a newfound cooperative mantra, trust becomes the foundation of our rapport.

But trust isn’t just a way in, and a share of the market isn’t the only measure of our success. We have to continually push the limits of our capabilities to stimulate fresh ideas, and remain at the forefront of innovation to our clients. The growth driven from market advancement is what will allow us to maintain our business and simultaneously cultivate new opportunities. With trust, our new partners will expect us to act on our promises and will be more critical of our deliverables. We are no longer reacting to a signed Statement of Work (SOW) or Request for Proposal (RFP), we are building a proactive and cooperative plan of action. Suppliers cannot simply provide a product; they must also act as consultants.

The stigma of “Big Pharma” having deep pockets and quick trigger fingers is far from the truth. Pricing is critical and partners will expect us to eat a slice of the risk pie when entering into an agreement (you are a partner now, why wouldn’t you?).

We optimize the product for the consumer experience through the ability to launch a solution directed toward a specific client and their void. This style is undoubtedly the wave of the future, and the relationships formed via this approach will be more personal, more customized, and ultimately, more lucrative.

Differentiation begins with common interest, and results in great success.

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Jun18

The Movement Toward “Pill Plus”

extramileHistorically, the relationship between manufacturers and payers has been transactional in nature. Payers needed to work with many manufacturers to meet financial objectives. With markets like hypertension and cholesterol at their prime and filled with branded agents, contracts benefiting both parties were the No. 1 priority. The majority of the discussions were branded, and there was a lack of trust and transparency between parties.

That was the old world, however—and this is the new world.

In today’s healthcare market, manufacturers and payers are dependent upon each other to meet their business goals. More focus has been placed on “above brand” or “pill plus” initiatives, over and above rebates for contracted products, resulting in a more collaborative environment among stakeholders. Contracts and transactions are no longer the only indicator of a positive relationship.

This shift was due in part to market trends that have required pharmaceutical manufacturers to step up their game. They needed to move beyond a transactional relationship in order to continue to provide value and differentiate themselves and their portfolios from the competition. Because there is such a huge generic market satisfying the needs of many patients with chronic illnesses, payers are relying less on their manufacturer partners to satisfy their formularies. Such market trends include:

  • Genericization of pharmaceutical marketplace
  • New branded agents with marginal improvement over existing therapies
  • Introduction of expensive orphan and specialty products
  • Access to payers and providers being minimized as stakeholders consolidate

This new environmental dynamic presents a great opportunity for our clients to take it up a notch…and where there is opportunity for our clients, there is opportunity for us. It is becoming increasingly important for us to approach tactical planning in a different way. So…what should our clients be doing to reserve a seat at the “pill plus” table?

  • Improve quality of care—focus on patient engagement, care coordination, quality measures, and optimizing the patient experience
  • Provide real world outcomes that demonstrate the value of therapies
  • Focus on developing deeper, more meaningful relationships with payer customers by providing added value through above-brand programs

So, you see, pharma must raise the bar—they must adapt to sustain value over time…because “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the plate.”

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Also posted in Brand Awareness, Customer Relationship Marketing, Healthcare Communications, Patient Communications, Personal Reflections, Pharmaceutical | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Responses
Jun11

My First Experience Working on a New Business Pitch

FinishLineAt first I was apprehensive about working on a pitch. And by apprehensive, I mean…terrified. I heard about the sleepless nights. I heard about the weeks in overdrive. I heard about the soul-stealing, confidence-crushing monster (perhaps known by others as a time crunch). I imagined myself going into crisis mode…which isn’t pretty, let me tell you: a lot of crying and a lot of M&M binging. But I soon learned that the Kleenex and the M&Ms wouldn’t be necessary. For me, working on a new business pitch ended up being an amazing experience, and a bit like college orientation.

During my freshman year of college, I was placed in an orientation group. It was The Breakfast Club all over again: a group of people who wouldn’t ordinarily hang out are all put in a room, bring their individual personalities to the table, become friends, and develop a special bond because of their experience together. This experience was replicated at Ogilvy CommonHealth in my first new business pitch that happened just weeks after I started my role as a planner.  Not only was I able to meet a lot of new, amazing people and develop relationships with them, but I was also introduced to what my life would be like as a planner. While these relationships were definitely important for the purpose of the pitch, I really loved that they significantly influenced the work I would do in the future. Plus, it made the office a friendlier place!

Now down to business. So, I mentioned my first new business pitch happened just weeks after I began my role as a planner in CommonHealth.  In my 6 months as an Associate, I had some exposure to Ogilvy’s Fusion system and to market research—all very much on the surface. On this pitch, I knew I would get to go way deeper into a brand than I had gone before. This was the opportunity for me to really get my hands dirty. I couldn’t wait. I was able to be part of the planning process from start to finish for the first time. I researched market trends, I conducted target audience interviews, I drafted the Fusion Journey and Blueprint, and I even got to write the creative brief—all in just a few weeks, and of course with supervision (Thanks, Mindy!). I loved becoming the expert on the client’s business and even more so the target; I loved learning about the different experiences these people had, whether a benefit consultant giving weight-loss program anecdotes, or an HR manager sharing how she chooses health and wellness programs for her company; I got to be a part of their world for a few minutes, and I felt their excitement and pride as they told me about their roles in their companies. I loved being a part of the entire pitch process from the competitive audit down to writing my very first DO Brief. It was a three-week taste of everything I would get a chance to work on in my career as a planner. And it tasted amazing.

Goodbye soul-stealing, confidence-crushing monster (the time crunch again). Goodbye M&Ms. Actually, not goodbye M&Ms, I still quite like your chocolatey crunch—not ready to be rid of you quite yet. But seriously, working on a new business pitch has been one of the most rewarding experiences for me at Ogilvy CommonHealth, not only for the extensive planning experience that I gained in such a short time, but also for the friendships I made along the way. Thanks, team! Oh, and to make my first pitch experience even sweeter, we won the business! I continue to work on the brand and grow my planning experiences every day.

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May29

A Patient is a Virtue

sales reps and docsIn the age of WebMD, Everyday Health, and Facebook, consumers are more informed and involved in their health than ever before.  And with social media infiltrating every aspect of their lives, they are now more vocal than ever.  Patients can – and in most cases are willing to – tell you what you want to know about your brand.  Just ask…and listen.  So why is it that some brands fail to take full advantage of tapping into their own customers for insight, ideas, and even inspiration?

We’ve all heard the phrase “typical pharma ad” and as an industry we are guilty of producing far too much of it.  Sometimes it’s driven by regulatory conservatism.  Often it’s a stubborn client who is afraid to push the envelope, while at other times there just isn’t enough budget to upset the status quo.  So we’re forced to pick up some stock photography, reach into our bag of preapproved claims, slap the all-important “pharma swoosh” on the piece, and call it a day.

But is the work resonating with patients?  Is it even being noticed by patients?  In order to make a connection with patients, the marketing needs to tap into what drives them, what worries them, and what will help them take the desired action.  Put simply, they need to see themselves in the marketing.

Market research and reports can obviously give you broad-stroke generalizations about your audience.  But how can you dive deeper into the psyche of your patients?  There are numerous ways you can do this and they don’t require significant investments:

·         Develop and leverage a standing Patient Advisory Board – Recruit patients to participate in an advisory board…and use it!  This is a great channel for bouncing ideas off patients and hearing first-hand about the challenges they face with their condition every day.  These boards can be conducted virtually (although at least one face-to-face meeting a year helps build camaraderie).  Also, be sure to refresh the participants so that you continually get the latest perspectives.

·         Seek input from stakeholders outside of the Brand Team – The Brand Team can sometimes be the furthest removed from the patient base, as they can get bogged down with sales reports and budget meetings; so try to engage those on the front line.  Sales reps often can provide direct feedback from HCPs and office staff on what they see in patients.  Is there an 800 number for you brand?  If so, speak with the customer service reps who field those calls.  What issues do they hear about most often and what questions are they asked most frequently?

·         Establish a patient eCRM program – A CRM program can be simple or complex – but in order to be useful, it must be trackable.  From that you can see firsthand what content is looked at most often and therefore assumed to be of most relevance.  You can also conduct quick surveys or online polls to get insight about your target.

·         Attend events and conferences – Again, this is another opportunity to hear from those on the front line: sales reps, patients, and HCPs.  You can also see, in one fell swoop, what the competition is doing to market themselves.

Nothing I’ve suggested is earth-shattering or groundbreaking, but I do find that these often get overlooked in favor of more complicated (and costly) research.  I happen to work on a well-established drug that was first-to-market in a category that is now undergoing seismic changes.  We needed to defend our turf from new therapies, new dosing formulations, and new administration devices, and we needed to do it with a limited budget.  “Gaining new patients was going to be increasingly difficult,” we thought, “so let’s at least be sure to hold on to the ones we have.”

So we set out last year to develop a campaign unlike anything this brand has seen in its 20+ years of existence.  We needed to reinvent ourselves while remaining true to our heritage and what kept us successful all these years.  We employed all of the tactics I mentioned above to help us paint a clear and vibrant picture of who our patients – our very lifeline – were.  What we learned was that our old marketing reflected misconceptions about what people with this condition were “supposed” to be like.  In no way did we reflect their vibrancy, defiance, and zest for living.  And because of that, our patients felt like the brand was letting them down.  How could we expect them to be advocates for the brand if we weren’t living up to our end of the deal?

The new campaign has just recently launched, so I can’t tell you yet how successful we’ve been at defending our turf.  But what I can say is that the feedback from patients, sales reps and HCPs alike has been overwhelmingly positive.  It is bold and defiant, and goes beyond the standard “talk to your doctor about…” with a rallying cry that conveys our patients’ inner strength.  In other words, it is a clear reflection of them.

So if your brand feels like it’s stagnating or worse yet, losing relevance, don’t panic.  Put your ear to the ground and listen for the voice of the patient – and then make sure it comes through in the work.

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Also posted in Branding, Creativity, CRM, Data, Efficacy, Great Ideas, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Marketing, Pharmaceutical, Strategy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment
May23

The Art of Self-Reflection

reflectionsOne of the many benefits of having my great-grandmother well into my adulthood was the opportunity to learn many tidbits about what was important in life and how to assess and improve character. Of all the gifts she imparted, one in particular really stuck with me, and I have tried to apply her advice daily in both my professional and personal life.

Whenever hearing her great-grandchildren complain about something or someone, she’d say (as she danced at age 96 with an imaginary partner after having a brandy or two), “When you point those fingers, take a good, hard look at them. You have three fingers pointing back at you!

I’m sure it’s a phrase that many of us have heard through the years. The lesson, of course, is to own it, whatever it may be. To grow and learn from our mistakes means investing time to look within, objectively assess situations, and determine “How did I contribute to that?” and “What can I do to make sure it does not happen again?” It’s easier said than done, of course, and it’s always easier to point a finger in another direction. Admitting to one’s mistakes takes quite a bit of courage. But while difficult, self-reflection leads to a very satisfying place, a peaceful place. It assures growth in only the best and most productive way.

So why not apply the same principle in the workplace. If our goal is to find the balance between being client-centric and company-centric, it means not only delivering quality work in a timely fashion and being efficient, but also holding our company principles to heart and ensuring our staff does not burn out in the process. To achieve this in our fast-paced agency world, self-reflection must be an ongoing and open process. It requires each of us to have the hard conversations with ourselves and our colleagues and commit to being part of the solution. It means letting our teammates know that “I know I could have done some things better and this is what I promise to do in the future to ensure success”; or “…this is what I will change in my behavior to help us get to a better place.”

Some things are in our control, others are not. But for those that are, the art of self-reflection and recommitment to change will land us in a good and positive place. If you don’t already do it, give it a try. My guess is it will be infectious and feel good, not to mention result in a truly collaborative, collective effort in the workplace.

So then, what’s your promise?

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May20

Bringing Sexy Back…to Science

disease managementThank God for The Big Bang Theory. They’ve made it cool to be a nerd again.

While traditional brand attributes (efficacy, safety, dosing, etc) will always be of key importance, the last few years have seen a renaissance of scientific enlightenment as physicians across disciplines take a closer look at not only how well a drug works, but why it works.

With the advent of new targeted agents in oncology and virology, mechanism of action quickly went from a dirty little secret buried in the PI to front page news. There are now numerous products that have built their entire value proposition on mechanism of action.

In oncology in particular, where clinical improvement between new and old drugs is often measured in teaspoons, the science behind the brand can often stand as a key differentiator. Avastin—one of the most successful drugs in oncology—created a simple scientific rationale for its use: stop cancer cells from creating new blood vessels and “starve the tumor.” With three simple words they took a complex process of tumor growth and development and created a unique opportunity in oncology that they have effectively owned since its launch in 2004.

Science Sells

The ongoing race toward “scientific innovation” is redefining how we market specialty brands.

  • Have a good pick-up line: In specialty marketing an entirely new nomenclature has spawned, significantly impacting our ability to change physicians’ perceptions of our brand. Simple terms to describe the science have now become synonymous with clinical attributes we could otherwise never say in a branded way. “Targeted” or “selective” now means safe and well-tolerated, “multi-functional” equals efficacious. Understanding how one simple word can affect how physicians view your brand is now key, requiring comprehensive research and knowledge of the market.
  • Be yourself and if that doesn’t work be someone better: No longer content to be classified under traditional terms, products have been using science to create entire “new” drug classes. Avastin rebranded themselves from a VEGF inhibitor to an “anti-angiogenic,” and DDP-4 was redefined as an “incretin degradation inhibitor” in type 2 diabetes.
  • Dress to impress: Where once MOA materials were simply required to be informative, now visually dynamic and digitally distinct tactical initiatives have quickly become a cost of entry for products seeking to separate themselves from the competition.

And while I can say with absolute certainty that an in-depth knowledge of molecular drivers of cancer will not help you talk to girls at parties, understanding the science behind the brands and their competitors is now crucial to opening up new doors for creative exploration, messaging and differentiation in specialty marketing.

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Also posted in behavior change, Content Strategy, copywriting, Creativity, Data, Efficacy, Healthcare Communications, Marketing, Medicine, Pharmaceutical, Physician Communications, positioning, Science, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Response
May16

The Challenge of Change–Breaking Out of Your Comfort Zone

POP flyerJ-codes. ICD-9 codes. CPT codes. UB-04 forms. Medicare reimbursement appeals. Care Management Strategy and Solutions. Formulary access. Business case. Value prop. These are just a few of the vocabulary words from a whole new language I’ve been learning—the language of Payer.

I’ve spent 20+ years in pharmaceutical advertising—long enough that I truly thought there was very little left for me to learn. How wrong I was. When our Payer group expressed the need for more copywriters recently, I answered the call. And the last couple of months have been quite a ride.

Suddenly I was a newbie again. I went from focusing on one or two products with one client to juggling more than half a dozen different brands for three different clients simultaneously. Beyond the multitasking, though, I’m discovering that breaking out of one’s comfort zone is, while scary, the best and fastest way to grow, personally and professionally. And I’m fortunate to have found some very smart—and very patient—teachers along the way.

Payer is the future of our industry. As everyone from the federal government on down turns their focus to managing the cost of healthcare, the days of billion-dollar blockbuster brands (like Claritin—an account I worked on for seven years) are behind us. Budgets are tighter. It’s not enough to convince a doctor to write a prescription when any one of a handful of middle men—pharmacies, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), commercial insurers—can step in and switch that branded drug to a generic, charge a hefty copay to discourage patients from paying for it, or just refuse coverage altogether. Efficacy and safety aren’t the most important selling points anymore—they have become the price of entry to a market that is much more cost-sensitive. And patients are more discriminating too—no longer willing to blindly follow a physician’s directives, especially in the current economic environment, they scour the Internet and become educated, sophisticated healthcare consumers in their own right.

We are all going to need to learn this new language—promoting pharmaceuticals in this brave new world requires talking about our brands in a whole new way. The points we use to persuade potential customers are going to have to be more compelling than “Drug X worked better than a placebo.” And I’m excited to have the opportunity to be involved in this emerging area.

My horizons have broadened exponentially in the short time I’ve been involved with Payer—I’ve worked on reimbursement guides, wrote a sales training manual teaching reps how to use a formulary access app, crafted emails announcing formulary status changes, and edited a PowerPoint promoting care management solutions (online resources and programs that encourage patients to participate in improving their health). And I know I’ve only scratched the surface—Payer encompasses a wide range of audiences, not just payers but also HCPs, patients and even caregivers. Future projects could include everything from writing a value prop, to a webinar, to materials for an ad board. I look forward to continuing to learn, and ultimately master, the terminology that sounds like Greek to me today. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll figure out what a business case is, and how to fill out a UB-04 form!

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Also posted in agency life, career decisions, copywriting, Creativity, Healthcare Communications, Managed Care, Payer Marketing, Personal Reflections, Reimbursement | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment
Apr1

Knowledge Management

knowledge is powerIgnoring the fact that Australia is a very long way from the UK and that I have an intense fear of spiders, snakes and sharks, I recently took a trip Down Under.  My Aussie mates (actually mostly British ex-pats but all of whom have developed that distinct accent of turning every statement into a question) persuaded me I was due a visit. Admittedly, I hadn’t needed much convincing, with the reminder that the food is delicious, the beer is cold and the sun nearly always shines.

My first few days in Sydney were easily occupied with zipping around the city on the superb ferry network, photographing sharks in the impressive aquarium, and seizing the opportunity to swim in the ocean. Having left behind a rather soggy Britain, it was heavenly to be in the sunshine with flip-flops (or “thongs” to our Australia colleagues) on my feet and no need for a warm coat or an umbrella.

Midway through my trip, I had arranged to visit Ogilvy CommonHealth in Sydney to meet with Muriel Wang. Along with David Chapman, Muriel and I form a global team dedicated to the management of knowledge, called Global Knowledge Management.

What is knowledge management and why is it important? Knowledge is a key asset for any organisation, but in our knowledge-intensive world, it is necessary to be able to cut through the noise. Knowledge management is the process of capturing, organising, sharing and effectively using organisational knowledge.

Obviously the starting point for knowledge is data. Whilst data can be easily stored, knowledge, intelligence, learning and wisdom reside in the heads of people. A sustainable knowledge management strategy creates an organisational memory, reducing the loss of know-how.

The value of knowledge management is better and faster decisions; by tapping into the experience of your colleagues around the world, you can avoid their mistakes, apply their solutions and make the right decision the first time. This is evidenced in our support of new business efforts, and as Muriel explained, “This is particularly relevant in Asia Pac, where products often launch later than in the US and Europe. Being able to learn from the experience of our global colleagues helps us to get a leg up on our competition, so to speak.”

In addition to improved decisions from facilitated access to expertise, knowledge management reduces “reinventing the wheel” and prevents loss of knowledge from changes in organisational structure and staff turnover. Client, brand and therapy experience can easily be forgotten if not documented, and our capture of this data into databases is proving invaluable in responding quickly to internal and external requests.

Knowledge management requires a collaborative culture and a shift from “I know” and “knowledge is owned” to “we know” and “knowledge is shared.” Global Knowledge Management meets regularly to share insights from each of our regions, and taking a brief interlude from my trip to Oz to pop into the Sydney office and meet with Muriel will no doubt enhance our global knowledge management collaboration going forward.

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Nov26

Taking Leadership Lessons From the Queen

queen elizabeth 1I’ve always been intrigued with historical perspective and, in particular, the long-established monarchy that is still firmly entrenched throughout much of Europe. So it was no surprise that I found myself unable to put down the book Elizabeth I CEO: Strategic Lessons From the Leader Who Built an Empire, which chronicles Elizabeth’s long reign and leadership lessons that helped her to win intense loyalty and lead her country to greatness.

Despite being proclaimed the “bastard child” of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn,  she assumed  the throne of England at the age of 25 and reigned for 45 years. As a female leader, I found her approach fascinating, and while the book highlights 136 guiding principles and some great historical examples, here are just a few that stood out:

  • She was confident in herself and not afraid to surround herself with extraordinary advisors—seeking the wisdom and perspective of others.
  • She was of strong intellect, worked tirelessly to build her knowledge, and always armed herself with insights and facts to make clear, unwavering decisions.
  • She had the courage to make decisions and take aggressive actions, accepting full responsibility for them, even when they were unpopular.
  • In order to win over her subjects and the hearts of her people, she leveraged her personal dynamism, and was not afraid to project her humanity.
  • She found that mentoring and effective coaching helped her to accomplish much more than by simply doing it all herself—she was not afraid of empowering her team.
  • She communicated directly and often.
  • She had no issue with being present at the front lines and putting her life at risk with those she led.
  • She acknowledged people, thanking and rewarding those who had done or offered her service.

It’s a fascinating and inspiring look at leadership which is as applicable today as it was in 1558.

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