It is no longer a special ju-jitsu move, nor is it the secret Masonic handshake that no one else knows. Digital is simply the platform that everything works on. Digital is becoming like air: the only time you'll notice it, is when it's not there.
Regardless of whether you are talking to patients or health care providers, agencies need to stop behaving like channel specialists and start understanding how digital connectivity affects everything that we produce, from drug dotcom to conference posters with a QR code. A campaign can no longer just be rubber-stamping the same message across assorted media. It is about understanding how to talk about a condition or product through a connected story across multiple touch points. But this is much more than a creative and content story, it is also about how we approach media.
The industry that time is forgetting?
A senior pharma client recently described digital agencies as "dinosaurs." A bold statement that is sure to raise eyebrows, and hackles, all over town.
Her point was that many digital agencies have fallen into the same specialism tar pit that they criticized Madison Avenue for 15 years ago: agencies are creating digital ad-like objects to fit in digital ad-like media that someone else bought, with no conversation or discussion in the process. If as an industry, we are not engaged together in this conversation, how can we expect consumers and physicians to connect with our work and our clients' brands. In a world where professional and consumer messaging are rarely conceived in the same agency, neither is the media and messaging strategy.
This isn't anyone's fault; it is just the way our industry grew up. The holding companies took media out of advertising agencies to create big companies with the buying power to deliver real value to clients. It worked then and still works today.
The downside of this success is that we are trapping ourselves in an old model. When media moved from the other side of the desk to the other side of town, we also lost the reality that media matters as much as the message it carries. The old phrase that "the medium is the message" rings truer than ever before. Look at the way social has transformed not just how people connect but has given them control of how and when they can be reached. TV commercials are not the only ads people can fast forward past these days.
This has never been truer than in the healthcare space. Today, health is one of the most-searched subjects and, guess what, no one is looking for ads. What they are really looking for is help.
This means we need to think about helping not selling if we want our work to be relevant. We need to stop wondering about how we fill the space and ask ourselves what health consumers and providers want and where they want to find it. To ask ourselves whether we are interrupting or aiding their search. Are we providing answers and information that will help people make better, more confident health decisions?
Apply CREAM daily
These challenges led Digitas Health to think differently. We have started applying 'CREAM' to our work -- a blend of "CREative And Media" formed by breaking down the last of the agency silos.
Our media and creative sit and work as one team, creating ideas and strategies that mix content and media partnerships to deliver both efficiencies for our clients and real value for their customers.
These concepts are conceived by thinking about people as participants rather than target audiences and understanding how those people are both consuming and using media. The result is rarely health care advertising in its most traditional sense, but it is content that people want and, importantly, has enough value for them to find us, rather than the old model of us looking for them.
The new dynamics in the health care space are forcing us to de-commoditize media and use it to create value. Not just for clients, but for everyone. It may get a little messy as these new ways of working blur the lines. But it's in that blur that you find real innovation.