We are in the midst of the Stanley Cup playoffs – the most riveting, tension-filled, nonstop, passionate action you can see in sports.

You must be wondering: What does ice hockey have to do with an advertising agency? Only everything.

Ice hockey is a global sport. Germany and France both have national teams. There’s even an NHL team a few miles away from Conshohocken, PA. Sorry folks living in the UK. Think soccer (I know, I know, football.)

Let’s go through a position-by-position analysis of our team.

Centers: These are the goal scorers. They get the spotlight. In advertising, these are the copywriters and art directors. These team members are privileged to create the tangible assets an agency produces. Seeing a client smile when presenting an idea – for these centers, that's like scoring a goal. I want to raise my arms in the air and embrace my teammates.

Centers take lots of shots, most of which don't cross the goal line. The same is true of concept presentations. Only one idea will score, the more chances you take, using quality work, the greater your chance of scoring

Wingers: Wingers, often called grinders are the hard-working players known for grinding along the boards. They muck for the puck in the corners. They are relentless and make everyone else around them look good. Our medical team, strategic planners and project management come to mind here. Often working behind the scenes, they rack up assists by feeding creative people the opportunity to score.

Defense: The defense consists of players who control the pace of the game. They play in multiple zones and mange opportunities of all sorts. They are stalwart. They are tough. They are account people.

Goalies: The goalie is unique. The goalie is largely ignored unless he lets the other team score. Then a red light goes off and the home fans boo and point a finger at this net minder. But the goalie catches mistakes. The goalie lets you take chances and says, “Don’t worry, I’m here to protect you.” Reminds me of a good editor. Always on call. Always catching mistakes. Always making it look effortless. And always making the rest of the team look good.

Of course, no team plays well without a good coach and management. For that, I thank our department heads for their incredible leadership through a bruising but very successful season.

Keeping it Kompliant with the Kardashians: Influencer Marketing & Pharma

Keeping it Kompliant with the Kardashians: Influencer Marketing & Pharma

Kim Kardashian wants her fans to know that she’s sorry. But not, like, really sorry. In an Instagram post on April 14th, she posted a photo of herself holding a photo of a post she made last August, when she promoted the prescription drug Diclegis—without including any fair balance safety information. At the time, the FDA sent a warning letter to Diclegis’ maker, Duchesnay, and the brand removed the post from Instagram.

The media attention that surrounded the initial promotion and warning letter seemed like it might have a chilling effect on pharma brands experimenting in the social influencer space. However, now that Kim’s back at it again with a tongue-in-cheek post reminding users of the product (this time, with fair balance), it sets the stage for other brands to make their mark as well. The new post has Kardashian levels of engagement, with a little more than 800k likes and thousands of comments. And while some of the fans complain that the lengthy safety information is stiff sounding and corporate, many others are sharing their positive experiences with Diclegis as well.

These positive comments show the pharma industry what the CPG industry has known for years, that influencer marketing done right can make a big splash. Just ask Gap, whose Styld.by campaign generated thousands of impressions through simple posts by bloggers, models, and other celebrities wearing the brand. You can also look at Arby’s, whose lighthearted partnership with Jon Stewart helped establish themselves as a brand with a sense of humor (they kicked off the partnership with a public tweet telling Stewart he was welcome to come work for them after he ended his stint at The Daily Show).

Of course, pharmaceutical products are much more complex than cardigans or roast beef sandwiches. But even highly regulated industries with complicated products have been able to successfully leverage influencer marketing. Last year, TD Ameritrade’s “Human Finance Project” empowered the financial advisors who work for the company to use their own social networks to promote the brand. The campaign began by showcasing a handful of professional interviews of employees talking about their passion for helping customers. Now, they’re encouraging all advisors to share their stories using a branded hashtag. These influencers don’t have millions of social followers, but they’ve nevertheless been able to reach a large and personal audience with a branded story.

This small-scale influencer marketing lines up perfectly with the goals of pharma marketers, whose brands may not need to reach the number of targets achieved by a Kardashian post and whose budgets may not have millions of dollars for social influencer promotion that Gap does.

Fortunately, there has been a recent proliferation of small-scale influencer platforms that aim to connect brands with influencers in a cost-effective way. Shoutcart, a self-service platform similar to Adwords, can help users get started for a minimum $50 ad buy. And Famebit, a video-based influencer platform acquired by Google last year, is set up as a “democratized marketplace” where endorsements start at only $100.

Now that social influencer marketing is affordable and accessible for our industry, it’s time for pharma marketers to start testing the waters. But before adding it to our latest brand plans, we should keep in mind several key principles:

  1. Match the content to the right influencers. Extensive social listening and other research can help determine if an influencer is the right fit for your brand.
  2. Make sure the voice is authentic. Even Instagram-superstar Kim K got some flak for how stiff the fair balance sounded in her last post. Some of this is impossible to avoid, but it’ll be key to keep as much of the posts as possible in a natural voice.
  3. Keep it compliant. After “Diclegisgate” last year, brands should make absolutely sure they’re including all of the key information from a regulatory perspective, but it’s also important to keep in mind that influencers should disclose that posts are sponsored in a clear and meaningful way.
  4. And lastly: keep it transparent. Just last week, the FTC sent 90 letters to Instagram celebs reminding them to “clearly and conspicuously” note when posts are sponsored—not by burying “#sp” or “#partner” in a sea of hashtags.

Going Beyond What Is “True” to Uncover Human Truths

Or: How I Learned to Put Down the Pickax and Stop Trying to Mine for Insights

As an account planner at DDB Health, I often wax poetic about our ability to uncover deep insights that are grounded in human truths. [Insert eye roll here.] And yet – despite the affectionately mocking gesture we all just did – we must admit that, as a healthcare advertising agency, our search for “the truth” is important. When it comes to people’s health, we can all agree it is essential to have a deep understanding of the science behind our brands as well as the needs of our customers. However, when it comes to generating insights – those somewhat intangible, seemingly hidden, but important nuggets that inform much of what we create – the known truth is only one component.

In an effort to better wrap my brain around what has become a vague and lofty concept, I recently watched a video presentation attempting to tackle what an insight actually is. Andy Davidson, the head of the UK global insight consultancy, Flamingo, presented his perspective on insights, and I was especially struck by his provocative stance on their relationship to truth. While credibility is often at the top of the list of criteria for what qualifies as an insight, Mr. Davidson bluntly posits “Truth is usually boring. Truth is too late.” Gasp! Now before you wholeheartedly object and throw your laptop across the room in a blind rage, let’s step back, perhaps take this provocative idea with a medium-sized grain of salt, and ground ourselves further in how we define insights.

In watching this video, I found it incredibly refreshing how Andy Davidson began by saying, “An insight is a feeling; you kinda know it when you feel it.” And I believe he’s right. We’ve all experienced those “insightful” moments when we pause – eyebrows raised, head cocked to the side – knowing we’ve thought of something profound and different.

But, since I’m sure we can picture our clients’ faces after informing them that feelings are a core feature of our insight illumination process, a working definition that Andy Davidson and his team use at Flamingo is:

“A Disturbance in Discourse – An insight creates a new way of thinking that was impossible before, allowing us to express what was previously inexpressible.”

Through this lens we can revisit the notion that the truth – or the facts – are only one part of what defines an insight. What I find most compelling about Andy Davidson’s perspective on insights is the importance of combining known truths to create new ones. If our approach to uncovering insights is too narrow and too steeped in the pursuit of only that which is known, then we run the risk of mistaking facts for insights, and replicating what already exists, which is most likely what our competition is already doing. After first immersing ourselves in the world of our customers to understand their known truths, we must then give ourselves permission to entertain “what might be interesting if it were true.”

An approach to insights that utilizes a range of human truths – customer, culture, category, and brand – as means of generating new truths is what will truly allow us to use creativity as a force for good health.

From The Stage To Pharma Advertising: The Beat Goes On At DDB Health

From a very early age I have loved to sing and perform for audiences. I would spend hours competing with my sister in the car (in Connecticut) emulating artists like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, George Michael, and Prince, but it was never just about the music itself. I often found myself smiling and having such an amazing feeling inside when I would see the positive reactions my audiences had and the uplifting effect my voice would have on individuals by evoking all sorts of radiant emotions.

At the age of 12, my mother moved the family out to Los Angeles because she wanted to pursue an acting career, and a few years later when I entered Beverly Hills High School, I was taking on a major role in the drama department and playing characters like Danny in “Grease,” and Joseph in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” I also found myself as the lead tenor soloist in the advanced madrigal choir performing at Lincoln Center in New York and caroling around the city during the holidays.

Although it was the music that drove me, it was also the constant change and the fast-paced environment. I found myself so excited to be a part of a group involved in productions where there were last-minute changes, so much variety in the musical performances, and many different personalities working together to create this beautiful outcome and affect people’s lives in a gratifying way. It didn’t take me long to make the decision that I wanted to pursue singing and acting professionally. I jumped into the entertainment business without knowing anything about the corporate side (simply possessing the raw talent), and my career started to move pretty quickly. I booked a couple of small roles in film and started working with world-renowned songwriter, Diane Warren and continued to find myself enjoying the adrenaline pumping through my body as I was being thrown into difficult rooms with prominent producers and casting directors. After years of hard work and countless songs written, I came down to a couple of defining moments: I was up for one of the lead roles of both television shows, “Friday Night Lights” and “Glee.” The pressure was on, the competition was great, but the process was completely enjoyable. In the end, I came down to the final two for both roles – Cory Monteith ended up getting cast as Finn on Glee, and after years in the business and coming so close, I decided it was time to take a break and wanted to focus on a career where I could experience that same high-speed movement, working with a great team, and the feeling of helping people that has always been a necessity to me in any line of work that I do.

During the years that I was focused on entertainment and music, my sister had entered a career in healthcare advertising. She would often tell me of the excitement that she was experiencing working with the pharmaceutical companies, developing strategy and tactics every year, learning so much more about science and medicine, and being able to work with such great colleagues on a daily basis to create so many different deliverables. At this time of my life, sensing the need for a transition – the pharmaceutical advertising industry sounded very appealing. I believed it would fulfill the need I had to be working on projects to help patients all over the world have better knowledge and access to the medications they needed and that extended people’s lives and making sure physicians were being kept up to date with new data and movements forward with many different types of medications.

I came to interview in New York and enjoyed the fast-paced agency environment and the teamwork among all of the folks working together, and it reminded me so much of what I had already experienced in the entertainment business. The agency was run very much like a show or a performance. Everyone was playing a role – some roles like account executives were more like the actors working in the front lines facing their clients (their audience), while others, like writers and PMs, were like producers. And all of us were working together to accomplish our ultimate goal depending on whatever deliverables were needed at a specific time. So I made the decision to have an adventure, come to New York and jump into the pharma advertising business. Once again, I’m “green” in an industry, but it’s exciting! It’s a challenge and it’s very similar to a cold read and improvising during a performance while I’m learning the ropes of the business and more about all of my colleagues. I can’t express how grateful I am and how lucky I feel to have been given the chance to show what I am capable of at the agency and to be working with such knowledgeable, experienced, intelligent, and fun people. As I move to a new chapter in my life and career in pharma I will always have the music inside of me and will always love to perform, but I will now be a cheerleader and performer for my team--our products and our brands--while being a force for good health at DDB Health!

My Tale of Two Cities: NYC & DC

“You’re not from New York” is a phrase I’ve heard about 5 times in the month since starting my internship, and those folks are right. Although I absolutely love NYC, it certainly is not anything like Washington, DC, a city that I’m a little more familiar with. I’m heading into my Junior year at the George Washington University’s School of Business, majoring in Marketing and minoring in Graphic Design. Since the start of my internship, I’ve compiled a list of 5 key interesting differences that I have observed between NYC and DC.

1. The Subway/Metro

I will never forget the time when I asked a man in a suit for directions to “the nearest uptown metro stop” when I first came to Manhattan. He just laughed and continued on his way. Evidently, (even though my card screams “MetroCard” in bright blue and yellow letters) New York City travels by ”Subway”—not by “Metro”. Disregarding the confusing markings, and the occasional rat sighting, the NYC subway is a lot more efficient than the DC metro. Not only is it running 24 hours a day, the trains come at much higher frequencies and cover much more of the city. Instead of waiting 17 minutes just to have your train delayed in DC (not including weekends), you only wait 2-3 minutes with an intermittent sigh from a hurried commuter.

2. The Culture

DC loves power and politics. NYC loves power and finance. While both cities are fueled by power, I have noticed that the cultures have evolved around these two divergent paths. In DC, when you walk along Pennsylvania Avenue, you can’t help but think to yourself, “Wow, how great it must be to run for office and hold power over constituents.” However, in NYC passing along skyscraper after skyscraper you think, “Wow, how great it must be to be CEO running this company!” Or maybe that’s just me.

3. The Work

It is interesting to live in both regulation making and regulation abiding places-- especially in a healthcare advertising setting. On one hand, DC sets the regulations, whereas NYC is home to many great healthcare advertising agencies that have to abide by the rules set in DC. It’s a very interesting contrast to witness; on one side, people are excited to write rules and regulations, and on the other side, people (sometimes frustratingly) follow these regulations. Living in both cities makes me appreciate both perspectives. I must say, however, that I think I enjoy the creativity side a lot better than the rule-setting side.

4. The Food

There is nothing–NOTHING–like the food in NYC. There’s so much culinary diversity and excitement that every meal presents a chance for a wonderful and delicious adventure. In DC, although there are some great spots, there are only a handful of really good restaurants and reservations are hard to obtain. What I really enjoy about DC food, however, is the growing popularity of “fast casual” places. If you are ever in the DC area, I highly recommend going to Shophouse, Beefsteak, and Honeygrow.

5. The Arts

The Arts are synonymous with NYC. From Broadway, museums, dance, clubs and music, the arts abound in NYC. I don’t think DC gets enough credit for the arts, though. The Smithsonian Museums (the National Portrait Gallery is my favorite) along with other great museums such as the Newseum, the Hirshhorn, and the Corcoran Gallery are all especially spectacular in my opinion. But here is the biggest difference: the arts are generally free in DC while everything is SUPER expensive in NYC.

They say it takes about ten years to consider yourself a true “New Yorker.” For most people in DC, it takes about the equivalent of a congressional term (2 years). I have come to love both cities as much as my home city of Philadelphia (don’t get me started on those differences!), but they are very different to live in. The contrasts are amazing, and at the end of the day, I have found happiness in both DC and NYC.

Hacking the Workspace

Hacking the Workspace

It’s become a stereotype for media and tech companies to have quirky office spaces. The lounge ping-pong table, the kitchen beer tap, the meeting room with beanbags, because nothing says we’re creative quite like rarely used office paraphernalia.

Yet within these office clichés there lies an element of truth.

Physical locations that encourage fun can actually boost employee productivity and innovation. The physical environment influences how people feel, how they think, and how they interact. A special location gives people a sense of identity and orchestrates the way people work. The right space design will ensure idea generation and development.

There are three elements to consider when creating a fun and effective workspace: entrance, openness, and agility.

Give special attention to the first thing people encounter when they walk in. How do you want them to feel? If you want them to feel inspired, make sure the first impression is conducive to that. Determine the emotion your entrance should evoke and design the space accordingly.

For instance, at DDB Health we want people to feel welcomed and creative. To achieve this there is a small lounge with a viewpoint to a mounted monitor that houses the agency creative reel and welcome messages for clients. A well-designed entrance will make people remember the experience.

Innovation requires openness and therefore your location should not be hidden away or closed off. Your location should play into outside inspiration. When thinking of the space determine what design principles you want to adhere to, or an existing location to mimic from. One of the principles at DDB Health is to be courageous in everything that we do, and an element of that is to support great ideas and work. To accomplish this we have open areas like the Piazza where chance encounters can take place and ideas can be shared.

Open spaces serve as areas where people should feel encouraged to have random conversations. Random collisions are the building blocks of innovation. The more we meet and greet with individuals the more likely we are to have a conversation that benefits the business.

The main criterion for innovation when designing a space is agility. If your design allows for change then you can create different working formats wherever and whenever required. An agile workspace at its core has no fixed positions, thus your space gives you the signal that with any position you can iterate. And if change can be done quickly, just like moveable furniture, many versions of different ideas can be tested in a matter of moments. This encourages nimble thinking and the feeling that you can work from anywhere.

At DDB Health most of our desk chairs have wheels so people can move back and forth and collaborate on the fly. This leads to productive conversations with different individuals, so that we can produce the best print and digital campaigns possible for our clients. Soon, we will also have treadmills with standing desks attached to enable the realization of our mission statement to “be a force for good health.” Embedding physical manifestations of your values into the workspace proves to employees that you care.

Encourage random collisions, be open, be agile oh and don’t forget to have corners, because everyone likes to work in corners.