Ten years ago, I had a fun conversation with a client about a bold social idea. He told me, with a smile, that we were five-and-a-quarter years ahead of his organization. The precision of the time difference made me laugh, but I also knew he was right. A decade ago Health was so far behind the rest of marketing. But not just behind, different. I still remember when I saw DTC for the first time 10 years ago. It makes me think of Darwin sailing up to the Galapagos Islands. There were things I had never seen before, pharmaceutical advertising had its own rules, its own look and feel. It was as if the isolation of only existing in one country had caused healthcare advertising to forge its own evolutional path; one that was very different from the way non-health advertising was shaping up.
Of course, like everything else in the world, digital was the ship’s cat that turned up on health’s island to change it forever. The last decade has seen incredible shifts in what good looks like, but most importantly, we have redefined what an idea is.
It used to be that a great idea was a great ad. Not anymore. Ten years from where I started in healthcare this has evolved to a new species of marketing. Yes, it can still be a great ad. Or a great platform. Or service. Or product. Or experience. Or whatever it needs to be.
The truth is the reality of “an idea” has never been freer or more exciting.
Just look at the really startling work that was just done for Alzheimer’s Research UK. They got Shazam to forget the names of songs to create awareness of the disease. A really beautiful idea with so much more cut-through than a TV spot, not least because it earns a lot of free media since the “ad” is news in and of itself.
Someone pointed out to me that none of the old science fiction films had predicted the smart phone. It is hard to figure out what the future is really going to be; there are so many variables. Of course, it is exciting to speculate about the future and we certainly need to keep an eye on it, but what is happening NOW is even more exciting and relevant. And ultimately useful. Our agency is currently building HCP AI systems for a global client, mentoring health start-ups, brokering unexpected partnerships in and out of health. And, yes, I did sign off a single-page print ad this morning.
But that is the point of now versus 10 years ago. It is such an exciting time to invent and create something new and unexpected. Something that helps us make new unexpected connections and truly make a difference.