Apr15

Mindfulness: An Age-Old Concept in a Bright, Shiny New World

yoga officeIf you asked others to define mindfulness, you’d likely hear a variety of responses, the most common of which might be relating the term to a Buddhist concept. Mindfulness indeed originated thousands of years ago, and for those who conceptualize it this way, a quote from the well-known author Thich Nhat Hanh illustrates the point well. He said, “Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.” Too esoteric? This is far from the only interpretation of the word.

A more practical and relevant definition for business is simply: awareness. We all know full well the challenges in today’s environment, particularly within the rapidly evolving healthcare space. The digital age isn’t coming, it’s here, but all of its obstacles and opportunities are still being pulsed out over time as we answer some questions and then inevitably raise more. As if our own world isn’t changing quickly enough, that of our clients is right there beside it, equaling if not outpacing the transformation we’re experiencing. One of the keys to all of this—to recognizing the hurdles and also to overcoming them—is mindfulness (yes, that 2,000+ year old practice).

Mindfulness facilitates a more complete view of what’s around us. It compels us to consider our immediate and long-term challenges, and the resources we have available to address them. But it also encourages us to put ourselves in the shoes of our clients, to become more connected to (in other words, aware of) their work climate, and that always makes for better, more creative and insightful work.

But it is more than just awareness. Going back to the more obscure definitions, it’s about being supremely present, the result of which is the ability to recognize beauty and connectedness in the world. The more of that we see, the more impassioned we become and the more driven we are to contribute to it—through our work, but also through our hobbies, our families and our friends.

So let’s make a pact to be more mindful and to reap the rewards, personally and professionally. Become more familiar with and aware of your working environment and that of your clients, work after hours at home and even monitor those devices as needed, and you will be a better, more valuable professional for it. But when the job is done, continue to practice that mindfulness by being fully present and invested in whatever you’re doing after work. It helps us all, even those who love every waking second of their job, to unplug and recharge. There are few things that clients love—and need, especially in today’s healthcare landscape—more than an eager and fresh perspective ready to confront their most formidable challenges.

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Apr10

The Cycle of DTC

blueskyThe history of DTC advertising (and by that I mean all consumer/patient outreach, not just TV), has seen a number of highs and lows over the years.

When campaigns first launched in the late ’90s and early 2000s, we watched as pharma marketers and their agencies worked to create brands out of medicines that, quite frankly, most users didn’t really want to have a relationship with.

During that time, we watched as Claritin and later Clarinex integrated graphics and special effects into their messages; we were introduced to critters including the Zoloft blob and Digger; we applauded the uniqueness of Vytorin’s “food & family” representation of the 2 sources of cholesterol. The Lunesta moth was heralded as iconic, while some of us scratched our heads over the story of Abe & the beaver as told by Rozerem.

The list goes on and on…. The point being, these were campaigns that sparked a reaction (good and bad), told a story, leveraged an insight, and by most accounts, helped our clients successfully market their drugs.

By the late 2000s, many of us noticed a perceptible shift in pharmaceutical campaigns. Some of this was coincident with a number of significant safety issues that prompted some of the major advertisers to pull back, and as more and more companies sought to “preclear” their ads through DDMAC and then OPDP, the feedback, in many cases in my experience, resulted in campaigns that while still engaging on some levels appeared to stop just short of eliciting any kind of emotion or reaction (again, good or bad). Our work still resulted in positive ROIs, it still won awards, but it just wasn’t the type of work that had people talking.

I’m happy to say that lately, the tide seems to be turning. Recent advertising for Crestor reinforces a positive brand experience by literally depicting a patient as a fan. A fairly light-hearted approach that still seems appropriate and responsible, still depicts the risks and benefits in a balanced manner, but one that evokes an emotional reaction, and presumably for Crestor users present and future, a connection with the brand. And campaigns like Novartis’ Gilenya illustrate how a brand can connect with patients—literally and figuratively.

Another positive outcome of this shift back to more emotive and insightful DTC appears to be a resurgence of more disease education. These campaigns are not only getting people to the doctor for appropriate medical advice and care, they are inspiring conversations and connections. Gilead’s “Full Frontal” campaign is provocative and buzz-worthy on the basis of its name alone…but the drama of the idea coupled with the real patient stories just increases the emotional impact and call to action.

So the next time a DTC ad turns up on your TV or Facebook feed…don’t skip it…you might be pleasantly surprised that DTC is back!

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Apr8

Mad People…and the Cadillacs That Drive Them

thumbnail BRUNEIt was recently brought to our attention that the “American way” is rooted in a belief that hard work in the pursuit of “stuff” is how we do things…and central to what makes us exceptional. In fact, nothing is (apparently) more foreign to us than the thought of being away from work for more than a week at a time. Can we even conceive of taking the entire month of August off? We might agree that it sounds nice, but we have our priorities straight.

Or do we? When evaluating work/life priorities, ask yourself these questions: “How many vacation days have I banked…and how many will I bank this year?” The truth is there are a lot of folks who find it difficult (or completely impossible) to take all their vacation time and, perhaps even worse, to “unplug” and thoroughly enjoy a hard-earned week away from work. The very nature of our business makes it all too easy for us to justify checking in periodically; but doesn’t this come down to personal choice?

The question of “work-life balance” weighs heavy. It haunts us a little, and taunts us more. Not surprisingly, it’s a question that routinely makes an appearance in our Town Hall meetings…what should be surprising is that so many of us have allowed it to actually be a question. None of us deny the importance of “checking out” or “recharging” (which, oddly enough, sounds like work). So why don’t we take our own advice?

Is the answer found in a TV commercial that has proven brilliant in its well-calculated (or serendipitous) controversy? A commercial that has generated so much chatter precisely because it can be interpreted to equally support—or refute—opposing political and social agendas?

The spot raises some interesting points regarding the value of the American work ethic vs the unseemliness of American consumerism. The fact that it provides a strong argument for both sides makes one wonder: is it a spoof? Is it accurate, something to be proud of? Or is it offensive, the epitome of the “ugly American”? Buried in most discussion lies the question: Will it sell? Time will tell, but at least that brings me back to our world of advertising.

There’s little doubt that agency life as depicted in Mad Men has evolved (we seem to smoke less, at least). But there are some lingering traces of that world that we might not feel so good about. One of which is the work-life balance.

Along with agency politics, financial stress and creative differences, the world of Sterling Cooper etc is largely populated with Mad People. People who never seem to “leave” work. They leave the office (eventually), they go home, and they go out (usually with coworkers); but the office is a constant companion.

In Mad Men, we also see Don Draper’s career arc accentuated by (among other things) the car he drives. When the show opened it was an Oldsmobile…within a few years he’s in a Caddy. As consumerism goes, he is living the American dream…and his work-life balance predictably bottoms out to the left.

Of course, life in America has changed considerably since the ’60s, and the concessions in “quality time” that we make are driven by some newer realities. We’re as interested as ever in collecting our toys, but the cost of a college education (as one example) now applies significant additional financial pressure. And, unlike the ’60s, college is more of a mandate than a privilege—keeping up with the Joneses now absolutely includes college. This and other factors have no doubt influenced the decision by many families to take a 2-income approach, which can create scheduling issues that make it even more challenging to strike a thoroughly satisfying balance in life.

Is the answer as simple as being less driven to succeed? Probably not.

Just as the character in the Cadillac commercial advises us, hard work can get you the stuff that proves you work hard. But the point he, Don Draper—and perhaps too many of us—may be missing is that hard work is most valuable when we make the same commitment to take the time, to enjoy time.

The work will be there when you get back. But you’ll be living the American dream, with just a dash of je ne sais quoi.

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Mar18

Coming Home

welcomeback_ImageIs it a better opportunity? What’s the environment and company philosophy? Is there an overall growth plan? How are the benefits? Would it be better for me and my family? What’s the commute like? What happens if I leave? What happens if I stay? What happens if I leave and I’m not happy—could I come back?

I’m sure you’ve thought about some of these questions and many, many more over the lifetime of your career. You may have even acted upon them one or more times. I don’t have a one-size-fits-all answer or the right answer for you. But what I can tell you is that…“I’m Back.”

Now that you know the ending, let me tell you my journey that brought me back.

I had been with Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide over 3 years. I was happy, but in April 2013 I left to explore a new opportunity. There were pros and cons—there always are—but I missed the people and the work. I missed the laughter and the energy and the passion that bounced off those bold red walls.

Once again, questions flooded my mind. What does it look like if I leave my new job after only 7 months? Will I be happy somewhere else? What will that culture be? Should I consider going back to OCHWW?

Seldom do people think about going back to their previous jobs, or boomeranging; but I was fortunate to have this as an option. After all, I had been happy there and I had a few balls in my court. I had:

  • Left on good terms
  • Gained the respect of my colleagues
  • Made a strong impact while I was there

Those factors served me well and I made the call.

Since I’ve been back, the response has been overwhelming. “You’re back.” “Welcome back.” “It’s great to see you.” “It’s great to have you back.” “We love boomerangers!” I’m now part of that group that has returned home. In the past 6 weeks since I’ve returned, I’ve heard about at least half-a-dozen other boomerangers. Who knew I was part of the in-crowd?

My journey has brought me full circle in less than a year. Each and every situation teaches us something—whether you stay, leave, come back—learn and grow from it.

If you find yourself at a crossroads like I did, try these few suggestions to consider if an opportunity is right for you. Whether it’s internal or external—at some point you’ll need to think long and hard about what to do. So:

  • Make a list of the pros and cons (yes, literally write them down)
  • Talk to trusted family, friends, colleagues—we’ve all been there (be selective, but use your trusted network)
  • Look at the entire picture (salary, benefits, commute, culture, other colleagues who may be there)
  • Educate yourself about the overall company, not just a specific division or job

Try not to:

  • Jump or be reactive
  • Leave because of one unfortunate instance
  • Only focus on one piece of the pie

So wherever your journey takes you (or doesn’t), make the decision that is right for you. Explore, think, don’t jump, and maybe talk to those of us who have come back (there seems to be a trend lately). I don’t have all the answers that would be right for you, but I can let you know that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side—it’s just a different length.

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Jan14

Offices Aren’t Just For Working

thumbnailOCHWW colleagues—I think you all would agree that we face a lot of challenges at work: client requests and tight timelines, internal office debates, and the food in the cafeteria. Well, it’s not exactly Dean and DeLuca. Plus, as wonderful as it would be to leave work (physically and mentally) every day at 5:00, that isn’t always the case. We spend most of our waking hours within our cubicles, conference rooms, or offices with coworkers. That’s why I think it’s important to have our workplace be somewhere we’re proud of—and somewhere we look forward to going to.

I’ve personally been a big fan of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide since 2009, when I was a  Communications and PR intern in our New Jersey office. That love grew when I spent two years in the Payer group before deciding to leave my super cool roommates (aka Mom and Dad) and start working for our NY office.

Those of you who work in the NY office, or have had the pleasure of visiting, know that it’s a completely different atmosphere from NJ. Here’s one small example: our cube walls are super low (read: nonexistent) which means you’re basically in everyone’s business all the time. (I wonder how many times a day I apologize to my poor neighbors for being loud and/or obnoxious….) Because of this open floor plan, it’s easy to get to know people—really well. I know when my coworkers are busy, frustrated, upset, or happy—and usually their moods affect mine. That’s one of the reasons I was concerned for the state of our employees’ mental health when the head of our NY morale committee was leaving Ogilvy. What was going to happen to our Friday festivities!? I leapt at the chance to work with the Mod Squad to ensure our morale would remain high.

It’s been a great joy for us to bring back “beer cart Fridays,” while also trying to start new fun events. We had a fantastic time with our Halloween Decorating contest, where employees could be found hanging cobwebs from the ceiling, taking grotesque self portraits, and watching the cool feature film developed by the creative department! This Christmas we had another decorating contest, where each team was given one box of items including playing cards, twine, and toilet paper, with which to decorate their rows. We had fantastic results, from “scratch-n-sniff” snowman noses out of mac-n-cheese to a tinfoil skating rink. Although brutally competitive, these two events have been some of the most fun weeks I’ve had in the office. My mind was blown away by everyone’s creativity, commitment, and fun spirit.

It’s so important for us to have fun together whenever possible—that’s why the Mod Squad dedicates their time to these events. Plus, advertising isn’t just about the work we are doing for our clients. It’s about what we do for ourselves. Don’t we want to brand ourselves as a company who enjoys spending time with each other, whether it’s working in a conference room, pushing a beer cart, or hanging toilet paper from the ceiling?

So, when making your resolutions for 2014, I ask that one of your resolutions be to help make our offices even more fun places to work! I’m happy to hear any and all ideas you may have. I promise you won’t regret it.

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Dec19

Unleash Your Passions

thumbnailAs the year comes to another busy end we find ourselves working long hours to ensure we meet the needs of our clients, but look forward to the hope and promise of a new year. The New Year is the time to reflect on the changes we want to make and resolve to follow through on those changes. As we think about those resolutions, let’s take a moment to reflect on the corporate culture of Ogilvy & Mather as laid down by David Ogilvy.

“Some of our people spend their entire working lives in Ogilvy & Mather. We try to make it a stimulating and happy experience. We put this first, believing that superior service to our clients depends on the high morale of our men and women.”

Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide is an organization filled with hardworking, creative and smart individuals. In fact, we often find ourselves defined by what our job roles are; account managers, copywriters, art directors, finance directors, medical directors, and more. But we are so much more than a job description. Underneath it all, we are all individuals with personal goals, passions, with a desire to better ourselves and the world around us. We are all poised for greatness. This greatness lies within us—deep within, we are painters, poets, caregivers, entrepreneurs, mentors, performers, advocates, athletes, and so much more.

Often the demands of our day job and life in general get in the way of achieving our personal goals, or passion projects, as I like to call them. But, especially in a creative business like advertising, we have to ensure that the pressures of the daily grind are not counterproductive to our creative spirit, the lifeline of our work. As such, we really need to make the time to pursue our passion projects. Our personal passion projects can provide a much-needed creative outlet and an escape from the demands of the day. Ultimately, making the time for our side projects will allow us to unwind, gather perspective and experience, and center ourselves.

But aside from the personal satisfaction that can be gained, passion projects loop back into work life, fueling professional inspiration. It is no secret that high performance and job satisfaction are tightly linked with the need to gain control of our personal and professional lives, to learn and create new things, and to be better at what we do. Driven by personal fulfillment, those who pursue passion projects are highly engaged and will work more efficiently and effectively.

So as we reflect back on the past year and resolve to make changes for 2014, let’s think about those side projects we are passionate about. It’s time to let those passion projects brewing beneath the surface grow into valuable opportunities both personally and professionally. If you give them a chance, you’ll get the pleasure of working with highly motivated people who are happy at their jobs. In the new year, I resolve to pursue my hobby of painting more vigorously… What will you do? Consider acting on your passion project as part of your New Year’s resolution.

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Oct29

StormWorks and What We’ve Learned From the Hurricane

hurricane thumbnail image

It’s a little hard to believe that today is the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, a storm that ravaged the East Coast and plunged much of the region into darkness. Even harder to believe that it was the second storm in two years to knock out all power…on almost the exact same day in October.

Up in the northern part of New Jersey, we lost power, and flooded. Many people lost their homes in flood-prone areas. But down at the Jersey shore, the destruction was more devastating, and our friends and neighbors in beach communities are still suffering. They remain in our thoughts and prayers.

At work, we can learn a lot from these nor’easter storms, which appear to be more frequent and ferocious. Let’s take a look at five things that we can learn from hurricane season and how these lessons may apply in our everyday workplace.

1. Prepare for the storm

During Hurricane Irene, we saw how long it can take to get the electricity back online. It is not something that typically lasts more than a day or two, but for many people, this time days rolled into weeks. The following year, people were better prepared. They had charged devices, flashlights, portable heaters, gasoline, and even generators. That storm was stronger but we were better prepared.

In the workplace, there are storms of a different kind. Even though we try to anticipate customer needs, we never know when a client will have an important need on short notice. If you’ve trained your teams to be reactionary, they will not be prepared for these last-minute requests. You can complain about the challenge and timing, or you can step up and get it done. Advertising and marketing are businesses that must be prepared to respond to the needs in the marketplace. Like having gasoline for your generator before the sky darkens for the storm, there are ways that we can prepare our staff for emergencies.

2. Follow the process

In schools and in most workplaces, we have fire-preparedness drills. While these fire drills seem a little silly, it’s important in the event of an emergency to avoid chaos and know where the exit signs are.

My RedWorks team is part of a centralized unit that provides services ranging from editorial, production, design and video. When there’s a client emergency, there’s usually some (or a large) request for my team’s services. We have process in place that both (a) manages existing project timelines and (b) responds to the client emergencies.

If managed effectively and everyone knows where they are supposed to go, you will limit the number and duplication of calls and emails. Plan and discuss the best way to divvy up work, particularly when there are other projects already in the work stream. As a manager, you must discuss emergency response before there’s an actual emergency, and then trust your people to make smart decisions.

3. Don’t cut corners

It can be tempting to cut corners to complete a last-minute request, but it’s just not a good idea. In the long run, you could actually cause more problems. Skipping a production step or an editorial check in order to save time could cause crucial errors. We’ve been able to streamline response time by following our documented processes. You don’t have time to tweak process during the middle of a client emergency.

Also, you don’t want to churn out poor work that you (and your client) will regret later. Sometimes the difference between mediocre and good is just a few steps. I’ve seen some great work emerge from designers and other creative people, simply because they kept a cool head, followed their process, and focused on their part in the workflow.

4. Apply what you have learned

After the first hurricane, a lot of people went back to life as usual. Others took the opportunity to stock up and prepare for the next epic storm. Just because our region lost power, it didn’t mean that the rest of the world stopped working. Those of us who lost electricity (and not our entire homes) had to keep working. The year before, we figured out ways to stay in touch, even when electricity was out in many neighborhoods.

We quite literally charged our devices in our cars and connected through telephones (remember those?) and email. WiFi is fast, but 3G wireless was keeping us connected. The next year, during Hurricane Sandy, we knew to take home the right files and equipment.

Beyond that, we prepared with our clients, particularly the local ones who were going to be hit by the same storm. It seemed a little awkward to exchange personal phone numbers, but we were glad we did. Many servers and websites were down, so we kept in contact in any way we could. We remembered what the previous year was like and planned around the actual stormfront that was coming.

We stayed on top of the work and kept the deliverables coming. We also learned a bit about each other as human beings. We made new friends and shared respect for each other on many levels. None of this would have happened if we hadn’t learned how to prepare from the previous storm.

5. Know your technology

If you’ll allow me to, I want to brag about my team for a moment. These are dedicated creative types who can blow you away with their skills. As such, we ensure that they are properly trained and keep up to date with the appropriate software and technology. We do like new tech, but we also respect the tech we have already mastered. We’ve seen competitors turn out award-winning creative work one year only to fall apart the next year. Often they are trying too hard to be the first people using new software, instead of just giving clients what they want and need.

It’s important to know your tools intimately enough that you can sit down on anybody’s machine and begin working. At one point last year, many people on our staff had lost use of their homes, so we met at a hotel that was reserved by our corporate team. We had dozens of people tapping away on laptops, and some people even had to share computers.

My team was composed of well-prepared professionals who knew how to use the technology to work effectively, back up their jobs, and find ways to deliver files to our vendors and clients. Having staff that is agile in their technical skills enabled us to plug and play during a challenging two weeks.

According to the weather reports, we’re living in an age of increasingly harsh storm conditions. High winds and flooding will continue to challenge us here in the Northeast, as storms by you will challenge you.

We have a responsibility to our clients, our teammates, and ourselves to be prepared to continue seamless delivery of great marketing and creative assets. The storms may slow us down, but we will remain focused and reliable.

The name Ogilvy stands for something, and we aspire to be the best. We’re a team, we’re strong, and we’re prepared for anything.

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Oct16

The Editor Is Always… Wrong?

Jeff Ryan thumbnailEveryone who’s handled a routing job has probably seen a bizarre editorial request. Removing the word “the” from a reference, switching the order of the asterisk and the colon, adding a spelling mistake back into the prescribing information.

Editorial usually has reasons for these changes—we should, at least! But often the copywriter/art director/account exec who sees a puzzling change will simply shrug and say, “Well, I guess we have to fix it,” and make the change. They’ll hold back their STET, because they don’t know enough about what in the world the editor’s talking about to make an informed stet.

Holding off from a knee-jerk stet is laudable…but maybe editorial should be stetted a little more than we currently are.

One common view of editors is that we’re referees or umpires, calling out mistakes when we see them. The art director is responsible for the art, the copywriter is responsible for the copy, and the editor is responsible for combing through the job with a fine-toothed comb. I may be in a minority here, and I may be giving away a large swath of intellectual territory claimed for the land of Editorial by my predecessors, but I think we have too much power.

Instead of thinking of us as the judges, I think of us as advisors. “I would recommend that we change than hyphen to an em dash, to match the usage on the previous page.” “Let’s think about rephrasing this, since it could be interpreted two different ways.” “At this point you may want to spell the name of the generic correctly.” Nothing we say has the force of law: we’re merely recommending changes.

The job we editors do is the same whether we’re seen as advisors or judges, but it casts everyone else’s jobs in a new light. An art director told to swap a five-pointed asterisk for a six-pointed one isn’t forced to make this change. She can make her own decision: editorial is one of many advisors she has. The style guide, past printed pieces, the account execs, and the client themselves may all have differing views. If the collective decision is five-pointed asterisks throughout, or to live with both five- and six-pointed asterisks in this piece, then editorial’s suggestion gets stetted.

Similarly, a copywriter “told” to rebreak a line, or swap a word for another word, or soften a claim or italicize a foreign phrase, or put the brand name in all caps, or whatever odd thing we ask them to do—they get to make the decision to do that or not. We know the brand style better than they do, but they know the brand better than we do. It should be their call. (It’s our job to add that change to the style guide and carry it forward from now on.)

We editors have never sat in on a PRC call. We’ve never met a single client, ever. The clients don’t know our names. We’ve only read the parts of the references copywriters highlighted as defense of their claims, not the whole piece. For the introverted among us, it’s a bit of a blessing. For the extroverted, it’s a bit of a curse. But it’s how the invisible art of copy editing should work; done right, no one knows what exactly we did.

It’s not that we don’t care: we could talk your ear off for four hours about a single serial comma. It’s that we don’t need to know all the stuff that you do to generate the copy. Our job of polishing the copy is done faster and maybe even better if we’re unaware of how many hand-wringing phone calls went into solidifying a wording choice.

Those who are entrenched in the day-to-day tug-of-war about if we’ll be able to make claim A, if we can get claim B in print before the new CDC report comes out with new data to be worked in—they’re the ones who should make the ultimate decisions about style. Our job is to be a consigliore to these decision-makers. We’re all working in accord, on the same side, but we shouldn’t be the ones making decisions that are going to affect the whole team. Especially not those who have to face an unhappy client.

That’s why the editor may always be wrong: we make the best decisions we can, but sometimes what we say can’t go. We’re not the ones who ultimately have to face the heat if a client doesn’t agree with our decisions. We may act like the king or queen sometimes, but we’re not the ones wearing the crown.

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Oct2

We Can Be Sexy Too

Toby Pickford thumbnailHello, is that Terry Savage, the chairman of the Lions Festivals?

This is Toby Pickford here, Creative Director of Ogilvy CommonHealth Sydney. How’s it going? I hear health has been added to the largest and most prestigious annual event celebrating creative advertising and communications. This is great news! Finally we can stand side-by-side with our mainstream counterparts; the wall of health will come down, and creativity can be celebrated as one, whether it’s selling Viagra or Volkswagen.

Sorry, what was that? We won’t be celebrating on the same day? Oh, so health is a completely separate awards event? We go first? OK, a bit like a warm-up act, right? 

STOP!

This is totally the wrong way to think about this. I could look at it as our time. Our time to really show the world and the most awarded creatives and their agencies on the planet that we are an amazing bunch of talented people who can tackle some of the most difficult and challenging problems and turn them into compelling communications. And what’s more, change lives!

That’s cool. Now we can show them that health can be SEXY! Not just mainstream…

Yes, that’s the way I should look at this… OK, I feel better now, special is good, special is SEXY.

Right, it’s on. Us against the rest of the world. Ogilvy CommonHealth united, seen as the most creative healthcare network. I can see it now—Cannes, the palm trees, the beach…

But how do we get there? (By plane of course—very funny, Toby.) How do we create work that will be worthy of a LION?

I am going to start by setting some goals:

  1. Drive for more inspiring briefs.
  2. Be fearless and push clients to be fearless too.
  3. Stay tuned to creativity from outside of the pharmaceutical industry.
  4. Be surprising in everything we do—make originality the norm and not just for special occasions.

That sounds good. Right, I suppose I better let Terry Savage know that he needs to make the stage a bit bigger next year because Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide are coming to CANNES to make health SEXY.

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Sep25

Google Glass in Healthcare: Do We Really Want In-Your-Face Medicine?

Jamie Singer thumbnailYou look at Google Glass and you think The Times April Fool’s joke. You think of those pie-in-the-sky inventions wheeled out on Tomorrow’s World in the 1980s by Judith Hann (you know, the one with the perm who gave Kevin Keegan a run for his money).

Google Glass is Terminator vision. And it’s here. Now.  Like we don’t need any more distractions in our lives, Google Glass will project a tiny window of information onto the top right corner of our own, human visual display. Content is delivered as text, image, video or GPS-enabled alerts—something like this image here:

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The technology, through its Star Trek-style visor design, will allow hands-free technology with POV (point of view) shooting—the sort of head-cam angles that we’re used to from a Lewis Hamilton Formula 1 helmet. Here’s a nice video showing what you might get up to with one of these devices sitting on your brow: http://goo.gl/QDGCE.

How has the technology world reacted? With moderate enthusiasm—the idea has been around for years and it’s clear the apparatus needs fine-tuning. Here’s a recent video review from The Guardian’s Charles Arthur: http://goo.gl/56OzE.

Charles makes the very valid point that a voice-activated device will make for a very chatty society and I personally don’t know how well this will work. Does anyone actually use Siri for its intended purpose? I’ve only ever heard people talk to Siri in look-how-cool-my-phone-is conversations (“I love you, Siri”… “I hope you don’t say that to those other mobile phones, Jamie”).

However, in medicine, there’s a bit of a buzz around Google Glass. Imagine you’re a doctor examining a patient. In the corner of your field of vision, you might have: patient vitals, treatment history, a list of current medications, related images (X-rays, scans etc.) and maybe differential diagnoses. This may well be triggered by facial recognition, but Google Glass is GPS-enabled, presumably allowing different patient data to ping up in front of your eyes as you walk around the hospital. Also, if the prediction is that technology will allow MRI scans (for example) to be superimposed over a patient’s body in real time, this could be hugely beneficial for diagnosis and management, with additional benefits in the training of new practitioners.

Here’s a 30-second German video showing the potential application of the technology: http://goo.gl/wfxXE

In another clip, Dr. Rafael Grossman demonstrates the use of Google Glass in an air ambulance emergency simulation, where I can imagine hands-free video conferencing could be life saving (though I can’t work out in this video why Dr. Grossman is wearing the expensive gadget and leaving his rescue team with an old-fashioned tablet to record the procedure). http://goo.gl/enfMM http://goo.gl/GpR4V

For patients, the technology could offer several health benefits. Hands-free diet and exercise applications could replace our smartphone apps—visual-recognition of our meals and an in-vision calorie-in/calorie-out counters could become the norm. In our industry, I wonder if adherence to medication might improve if patients had a little flashing pill in their field of vision every day.

However, no mention of Google Glass can be had without a discussion around privacy (since you won’t know if someone’s taking a picture of you). If this issue is resolved, presumably the same issues around confidentiality will arise that currently concern picture and video taking in the medical profession. I can’t really see how a wearable device will make much difference in this field.

Additionally, if recorded surgery and other procedures becomes the norm, clinicians may face the risk of scrutiny if things go wrong, both internally, and potentially from litigious patients. Although, I’m guessing this may well have a positive impact on procedural standards.

Ultimately, this is technology that could and should make healthcare services that little bit more efficient— with budgets getting tighter by the day, will this little gadget change the face of medicine and healthcare provision for the better?

Google Glass is due to go on sale to the general public in 2014.

Here are some links to some medical Google Glass blogs:

http://goo.gl/4rmMl http://goo.gl/ZGywr http://goo.gl/cMzUn http://goo.gl/Gstiw http://goo.gl/2qR6V http://goo.gl/PbgrU http://goo.gl/Wz3Y0 http://goo.gl/m8tNH http://goo.gl/frZlN

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