The Pulse of Healthcare Marketing

Will Francis

by Will Francis

Posted on Mar 18, 2022

What are the traits and challenges of marketing within the pharmaceutical and healthcare space? Host Will Francis chats with David Hunt, veteran healthcare marketer with Havas Lynx and now with his new healthcare-focused agency, The Considered. They also look at how it worked to launch that agency's new brand during Covid. 

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Podcast Transcript

Will: Welcome to "Ahead of the Game," a podcast brought to you by the Digital Marketing Institute. I'm your host Will Francis, and today I'll be talking to David Hunt, all about marketing in the healthcare sector, and his journey through that to recently starting his own agency. David is a true leader and innovator in pharmaceutical marketing with a track record of firsts and successful campaigns. Former CEO at Havas Lynx, author of "Healthcare Heroes," and now founder of his new agency, The Considered, where in their own words they're aiming to break the rules to reimagine healthcare. Dave, welcome to the podcast. How are you doing?

David: Yeah, not bad. It's great speaking to you today.

Will: So you have been working for quite some time in marketing for healthcare. It's not something that we talk about or have talked to many people about on the podcast. So where are we at? Just to set the scene, what's it like marketing in healthcare? What's it like doing marketing in that sector? What are the challenges and what are the kind of rewarding and great things about it?

David: You made me feel really old there. But yeah, no, it's true. It's true. So I've been working in healthcare communications for the best part of two decades, which again, definitely ages myself. And honestly, like, I've really enjoyed it. You know, I remember at the beginning of my career thinking, you know, I wanna design cars or, you know, I wanna advertise this or the other computer games, all those things, and I chose a career where I thought I could have the most meaningful impact and where you could use like creativity, and technology, and innovation, to actually, you know, have a profound impact on the lives of fathers, mothers, children, friends, family, and obviously the broader society.

Will: That's interesting. So you sort of found a bit of a deeper meaning in marketing for healthcare above what it would be like marketing like potato chips and fizzy drinks and stuff?

David: Yeah. I remember particularly working on hepatitis C. And it was actually one of the things that attracted me to end up working with Tom Richards, who's an incredibly creative, and we're having a chat and we're having a few beers at this event and he's telling me he is working on like Subaru and all these other kind of exciting accounts. And he's not really interested in the kid next to him who's working in healthcare. And then he begrudgingly goes, you know, "What are you on working at the moment?" And at the time I was working on, like, hepatitis C, and basically like, you know, the cure rates had almost like doubled and the side effects had gone from being absolutely horrific for a year or two to really kind of minimal.

And suddenly like you could see this future of making Hep C history. The problem is you need to know about it to remain like, you've created these incredible treatments, science is doing this fantastic job, but if the world doesn't know about it, then Hep C is still gonna ruin life. I was saying to him, you know, this is why I work in healthcare because we've got the opportunity to really unlock the incredible potential of these scientific discoveries. So yeah, that's definitely what I think of in terms of a deeper meaning.

Will: What was his response?

David: Yeah. Load more beers, and then about four hours later I got that message that said, "You know, can we have another conversation?" And then, you know, four months later he was talking to me about, you know, what car I'd like, and then he came to start working for us and the rest is history because, you know, he was amazing and a phenomenal partner. But yeah, all kind of came from that first conversation between Subaru and trying to make Hep C history.

Will: Okay. So it's clearly very rewarding. What are the main challenges working in healthcare marketing?

David: So without question obviously it's the kind of legislation, it's the regulations, and it's the compliance. And again, I've kind of liken it to...Remember I've being at uni and someone gone, "Oh, you know..." One of those mad lectures go, "You've got design, someone's gotta big size I like a postage stamp." You know, really, you know, it's really small, really hard, nobody can do this," and then someone, you know, cracks it with an amazing idea. Healthcare is exactly the same. It's everything's possible, you've just gotta try harder, be smarter, and be more creative. So you've definitely gotta go, "Yeah, there's challenges, and there's compliance, and there's regulations, but you know what, I'm gonna bring my A game, I'm gonna go in because I wanna have this impact."

Will: Yeah. So like you say, those boundaries, those limitations are actually what gives you something to kind of brush against and push against and actually get a real perimeter with which to play. That is interesting. And is that to do with the kind of claims that you can make about medicines and things like that, is all that kind of stuff?

David: Yeah, it would definitely be my biggest. So I've loved what I've done for two decades. It's also been challenging and really, really hard. And one of the reasons is because sometimes in pharma and a lot pharmers are like, "Oh, I love what that other vertical's doing here, but we can't because we're kind of pharma." So there's almost this like deep root in anxiety and paranoia. And I've worked as part of some incredible teams for that two decades and come up with some phenomenal ideas where you're going, "Yeah, this is absolutely gonna change a lot of people's lives." And then you go into that meeting and you come with these great ideas and it could be in social or mobile, it could be in any of these things, and you go through and you describe this idea and then, you know, someone goes, "Yeah, but I don't use YouTube, it's not a thing."

And you're like, really? Or, you know, "I'm not sure everyone's got a smartphone, you know, can we have a piece of print?" And that for me has been like the challenge and we can talk about pockets of work where you've broken through that challenge and you've had this really powerful impact. But there are so many occasions where these incredible ideas have been diluted down to a piece of print because of anxiety in the industry. And that for me is this pivot point that the pandemic has brought about where you can no longer hide behind that excuse because the whole world is more capable and more confident in using technology, and therefore all those incredible ideas we've had before suddenly we can actually realize them and have that really profound and significant impact.

Will: Yeah. I get that. So it's quite risk-averse...traditionally it's quite risk-averse, but because of the sheer acceleration of digital transformation over the last couple of years. Yeah. Do you think that a lot of people have just been pushed into digital whether they liked it or not, basically?

David: Yes. When we were launching The Considered, we basically, you know, were sort of trying to establish a position, came with the idea of breaking the rules others follow. And it was intentionally meant to be self-selecting, because there have been some great work over the past 5,10 years, but almost invariably that with like that brilliant partner and that brilliant client, but they're very much the exception rather than the rule. Now we kind of find ourself in a place where the broader industry is going, "Actually, we have to do more. We have to build on the positive work of the industry in the pandemic. We have to embrace the fact that the broader community is now confident in using technology. I'm really interested in how we do this." The challenge now is they don't necessarily know what that looks like, and that's why you need, you know, brilliant partners who can guide them through that process.

Will: Indeed. And talking of which your agency, The Considered. So as a further bit of background for listeners, so let's just take a minute to introduce what that is. Tell us about The Considered.

David: So The Considered is, you know, almost 42, is the second agency. So the first was based in Manchester, Havas Lynx became kind of healthcare agency CDA, very, very lucky to work with some incredible people and some incredible leaders. Ultimately sold it to Havas, fantastic deal. But then, you know, I want to continue to have an impact on the world, I want to continues to do great work and great innovation, and the pandemic unfolds. And I'm sort of observing this taking place and there's a few different things that sort of strike me. One is the ability to kind of curate and assemble incredible like creative, technologists, and innovators, is very different today than it was two or three years ago, because of remote working. And there's kind of not a day when I was running Havas Lynx when I didn't go, "You know, with 10, 15, 20 people, do I need to recruit today?" Which is really, really challenging. And suddenly you've got this idea of a workforce of 7 billion, so it's like, cool, let's break the rules of how we assemble talent. And then how you...

Will: Is there really a workforce of 7 billion?

David: I mean, that's the population of the world and you can live and breathe anywhere. Right? And work for anyone and that's...

Will: That's true. That's true.

David: And I absolutely craved that diversity. Do you know what I mean? That comes with that. And now, you know, more than ever is obviously the crisis unfolds in Ukraine. So that was one idea. And the second idea is going, "There's better ways to use technology in healthcare. And we're only gonna do that if we break some of the rules and we look at much more contemporary campaigns and innovations that can have a profound impact." So came with these two ideas, and from that, I had the idea of launching a new agency called The Considered. And one of the reasons being, you know, I simply hate propaganda and spin when it comes to technology. I hate people trying to be the smartest one in the room and coming out with the latest kind of buzz-word to overwhelm everyone else and get paid that sort of their fee to stand on stage. So the idea with The Considered is everything would be done based on like data, and knowledge, and heart, and everything would be done to be kind of meaningful and impactful, and done with consideration. So we launched The Considered in September to try and drive dramatic change in healthcare.

Will: You talk about partnering, you've mentioned that, and there's been a kind of buge in trend in the last few years, most famously with agencies like Oliver, with this idea of like in-house agencies. Do you know the sort of thing I'm talking about where there's less of a...

David: Yeah. It's a great model.

Will: Yeah. And there's less of a kind of agency somewhere across town that you have this quite distant relationship with and more about, yeah, like you say, a more integrated partnering with a group of people sometimes bringing that agency team in-house. Where do you sit in terms of that approach?

David: So, I mean, I think Oliver is fantastic and I think it's a brilliant idea. You know, I understand that David Jones particularly well, who's heavily involved in that. When you're an agency for the best part of a decade, you almost never stop. And then I left Havas and kind of stopped. She gave me six months to listen, and think, and observe, and all these different aspects. Oliver was definitely an organization I kind of looked into and said, "You know, I really think these guys are kind of on to something." And I absolutely believe that the way the industry operates has to change. You know, if you look at the some that are spent and the scale, and sometimes to kind of compromise quality and some of the systems that are in place and like, there's definitely gotta come a day where there's some form of reckoning and some sort of change in terms of how you enable and partner with creative agencies. Is that an agency like Oliver, is that in-house teams, is that...I have no issue with the word boutique, is that, you know, boutique independent agencies? But I honestly, you know, believe that.

So we're definitely not copying in any way, shape, or form the model of Oliver, we definitely are, you know, making the most of remote and hybrid working to be able to pull on talent from around the world. We definitely do not think we can deliver a $50 million a year campaign as a small startup agency, we definitely are open to collaboration and partnership in ways perhaps agencies haven't been in the past. And I honestly believe that, you know, the more we kind of respect other agencies and win more,we can kind of respect the different swim-lines and collaborate, and partner, you know, the better work the client is gonna get. So I think it's a fascinating time and I think it'd be very interesting to see the evolution of agencies in the next five years. And I definitely intends to be at the forefront of that in terms of experimenting how we work, how we partner, and how we do the most for our client partners.

Will: Yeah. Okay. So I like the sound of this job. So I think I might start an agency tomorrow. Should I go really specialist, or should I try and be a kind of...or everything under one roof? Which do you think is the way things are going?

David: So I've done both. Do you know what I mean? And I think it's driven by different agendas and different timings. So with Havas Lynx, the idea was always to like build our capabilities, you know, to battle through assembling a team of like 25 engineers or you'd battle through assembling, you know, a team of search specialist and all these things. And it's been great and they've done fantastic, but we all know how hard that can be as a leader when you're getting increasingly outside of your area of experties. Right? It's kind of challenging. Also, it takes time. And then you've also gotta be best in class in an area which might not be your area of expertise, but it's worked really well. Now, I'm taking the approach of specialist and very much partnership. So going, "And what we're bringing is strategy, creative, and ideas."

And then when it comes to software, I wanna work with the best in class in so far. When it comes to digital health, I wanna work with best in class. When it comes to social I wanna work with the best in class. When it comes to search and performance I wanna work with the best in class. And I think that's a really, really interesting provincially, potentially powerful model because it means that you've each got your own responsibility for being best at what you can do. And that's your sole focus. And that I think is an interesting and exciting model. It's all for the future.

Will: I see what you're saying. So you're...The Considered, you're focusing on creative and strategy, and then you're bringing in specialists to do the various bits of kind of production delivery execution and what have you.

David: After 20 years of trying to write code I've established it's definitely not the best.

Will: I get it. I think we've all doubled in those things, and you're right. If there's an agency tasked with like PPC, like their backs are to the wall very much, and they've gotta deliver on their bit of it. And it means more to them, it's what they do. They're totally immersed in it. And ideally, they're the best at it as well. So...

David: I'd say that's very interesting. The collaboration is much more around like how and when, is so, so important. So if we take...You mentioned now like PPC, so let's talk about search and performance for a second. In the more traditional kind of model, you know, I feel really sorry for those guys because they're almost always last. Do you know what I mean? You kind of go through that process, in the end, here's a strategy, here's the big idea, here's the editorial. Hey guys, can you optimize this? And they're like, pulling the hair out, going like, "Oh my gosh, why are we involved here and now?" And then you go, "Why aren't they almost involved in first because, you know, search is fantastically important. I don't need to tell you, is only I do need to sell my industry."

And you're going, "Why aren't they involved in the beginning in terms of actually setting up that like foundational platform on which everything else takes place, and then half of that work is done and it's more effective." So what I actually believe when it comes to partnership, is it's much more about how and when you do it, and that's one of the biggest issues I think the industry has always had in terms of bringing in the right people at the wrong time.

Will: Yes. I mean, and that's been...I think that's been an issue for a long time, you know. I saw that with the rise of social media, 12, 13 years ago, PPC 20 years ago, you're right, that these kind of specialisms are left till the end and just deploy when everything else has been sort of set in stone. And I think that's a good bit of advice to kind of consult these specialists early on, so you can sort of set yourself up for success.

David: But I wouldn't even go to consult. You know, I'd be stronger than that. Do you know what I mean? Like I'd be bringing in those experts right at the beginning at the foundational stages, like true partners with mutual respect, and I think the output would be much more impactful.

Will: Hello, a quick reminder from me that if you're enjoying our podcast series, why not become a member of the DMI so that you can enjoy loads more content from webinars, and case studies, to toolkits, and more real-life insights from the world of digital marketing. Head to digitalmarketinginstitute.com/aheadofthegame, sign up for free. Now back to the podcast. You talked about the sort of slight resistance in general to digital, but is healthcare breaking through in terms of using social media? Are our healthcare brands on TikTok? You know, is that happening now? And are there any particular brands that are great examples of that, do you think?

David: So, firstly in terms of...You know, let's take social as an example. There are like pockets of brilliance. What's really, really, really bizarre is those pockets of brilliance sort of remaining as pockets of brilliance and not going mainstream. So, you know, myself and a few incredible people did the industry's first true social media campaign a few years ago, which is in psoriasis. It was called Psoriasis 360. And psoriasis is a, you know, a terrible infliction, you know, huge physical burden, incredibly painful like, you know, all over your skin, really irritable, painful, like terrible, terrible physical condition, especially if it's like moderate to severe. But there's also like a real emotional and psychological baggage that comes with it, that's often overlooked. So the idea with Psoriasis 360 was to try and galvanize the community and hear from the community. And it was massive because it was post-moderated, which for Johnson & Johnson was a huge step.

Will: Just explain what that is for our listeners.

David: Creating the platform to allow people to have a conversation, free conversation as opposed to almost being a gatekeeper for all those comments. So, you know, you make a comment, they review it and go, "Yeah, it's fine, we can post it." Which is not good to, "No, we're gonna support the community and we're gonna enable 'em to make comments, and then we'll review it afterwards if anything is inappropriate." Huge like illustration of partnership between Johnson & Johnson and the community, and a massive kind of step forward.

Will: It's funny because that doesn't sound like a big deal at all in like, you know, like a lot of industries, but I do absolutely understand why that is a massive deal in healthcare because of this huge risk-averseness and fear of a PR disaster. So yeah, I do understand that.

David: But the impact that had on the patients was amazing. So what you would have...You know, I think it got somewhere, you know, 100,000 active users in a couple of months, which is a massive number when you consider, you know, we're talking about people who have psoriasis. And on there you'd have people, you know, talking about how arduous it was, how challenging it was. And it was really, you know, really, really, really tough reading. And then obviously often someone would say, "Yeah, but you know, go and see a dermatologist, just been prescribing new treatment and they talk about all the kind of hope and they talk about the positive impacts," and because it was coming from within the community and because it was for the community, like community really like listen to this. They'd go and, you know, see the dermatologist and they're demanding you standard care.

And this was absolutely like life-changing. These are people who, you know, hadn't been on dates, hadn't been for job interviews, hadn't, you know, gone on holiday, you know, who were largely like staying at home and weren't taking emotionally. And suddenly there's this rare light that was coming from this social media campaign going, "There's better options in this kind of hope out there." So like a small step, you know, in some ways, absolutely life-changing step in other ways, and fantastic. Now, what's insanely frustrating is that then doesn't open the door more. Do you know what I mean? And that's where I wanna start driving change and go, "That's brilliant." You know, we've taken a small step or a big step for our industry. A small step in terms of technology, let's change that into massive steps and let's do loads of them, and let's make it sprint, you know, and let's start doing much more of this. So that's like an example of the kind of change we're looking to strive.

Will: Yes. That's interesting. So fast forward to today, what sort of stuff are you working on now?

David: It's really very simple to describe. So if you can imagine you're progressing through the kind of healthcare system and, you know...I hope you've never spent a huge amount of time in the kind of space, but if you've have, there're certain things I'm sure you can appreciate, and incredibly confusing. Right? Incredibly confusing and really, really frustrating, and really, really slow. You can get stuck all the time in different cycles, you might keep going back to EGP, keep trying different treatments, might be ineffective. And it's just really arduous, really confusing, really slow. I was working on a treatment at the moment. A diagnosis takes 7 to 10 years. Seven to 10 years. So if you are living 60, 70, 80 years, that's almost 10% of your life not knowing what disease you've got.

So you've gotta imagine this really, really slow, arduous journey through healthcare. And more often than not people like falling out of it because they lose hope, and they give up, and they get frustrated. So what we're doing now is using technology and using ideas to go, "How can we make that process as seamless as possible? How can we make sure it requires the least time and the least effort, and make sure it's as simple and as straightforward as we can?" And that's what we're calling basically health control.

Will: Health control?

David: Health control. And that's how we're looking to try and drive these reasonably simple, more painfree, more rewarding experiences through these very, very challenging and confusing systems. And the thing about health care, it's really, really simple. The quicker people, like, recognize the symptom, and the quicker they go and talk to a doctor, and the better they articulate how they're feeling in the symptoms, the more quickly the doctor can refer them, the more quickly they can get them on the right treatment. And the quicker that path is, like the better the outcome is gonna be. So the more that we can use technology to accelerate that path, the better we can improve outcomes. And the way that happens is if you look at almost all like healthcare systems...I'm generalizing massively. If you look at the bulk of systems and technologies, and products and services that make up healthcare at the moment, they all look like fallen out of the early 2000s, in terms of user experience. Do you know what I mean? They're so dated, it's unbelievable. So you may go and do, you know, a simple survey, and it has not changed since, like 2005. And then you look at every other, like, service and technology that exists in your life, and it's like seamless, it's discreet, it's dynamic, it's responsive, it's shows awareness of your environment and your data in your life, and it's a partner all the way through.

Will: And it's true that isn't it because just to pause on that, I think an interesting point about that is that we all have to understand consumer expectations are always set by the things that are just present in their lives by Uber, Facebook, Deliveroo, BBC iPlayer, Netflix. And that's what you're up against. And it's funny, there's loads of brands, not just in healthcare, there's loads of brands that still haven't quite got that memo, you know, and they still think that they can live by quite low, or deliver on, quite low standards. So it's interesting hearing you talk about that.

David: And that's where this position of breaking rules comes or stems from, and couldn't be more comfortable if a client is not up for that because he can work with someone else. You know, you only have to look at...I've just been, you know, I just had to test a little boy this morning for COVID using this on-go package, and it's just an absolutely incredible experience, you know, incomparable with anything in, you know, that kind of consumer sphere. And that's what we need to really be delivering. And honestly, you look largely across the sector and it's still stuck in 2010, in terms of the experience it delivers. And what we have to do is really, you know, replicate the experience, and the service, and the reward it's delivering in those sectors.

And I'll just give you a very quickly, a parallel. Five to 10 years ago, if you looked at creativity in healthcare, it was largely absolutely rubbish. If you now go to something like, and you look at the creativity in healthcare versus the outside of it, it absolutely goes toe to toe...I think now it's kind of better. And the same has gotta be true with technology, fast forward 2, 3, 4 years, we can't turn around and go, "Yeah, we've done an absolutely phenomenal job for healthcare. Aren't we clever?" You know, we need to be delivering the best possible technology regardless of the sector because it counts the most.

Will: Have you been personally involved with any of these PR crises, social media crises, because they would...When you look up healthcare case studies, they are one of the things that kind of commonly come up. Has that ever landed on your doorstep, that kind of thing?

David: No. If I'm honest. And it's interesting. So when I first kind of got into the industry, there was a book written by a guy called...and he was very vocal at the time called Ben Goldacre. And he wrote a book called...

Will: "Bad Pharma."

David: "Bad Pharma." And it was really...Obviously, you know, go through it and kind of read it and, you know, very much like listen for it and all these different things. As part of a team wrote a white paper called "Good Pharma," which was, you know, very much sort of my experience. And the thing that I would say is I've been fortunate to work with people across the industry for, as you kindly pointed out, or I pointed out for about 20 years, across different companies, across the world, across primary care, and across secondary care. And I have absolutely never worked with someone that isn't totally committed to try and improve patient outcomes. So I can only talk about, you know, my experience, and that's working with very, very good people like QRI, who are really, really motivated, and who absolutely believe in the science and the medical community represent who wanna, you know, try and improve outcomes. And that's my personal experience.

Will: Yeah. I can tell that you're not happy with how the pharma industry is portrayed in popular culture, because it is portrayed as having some sort of, you know, at its worst, some evil agenda in conspiracy theories, but they have bled into, in a small way into the mainstream, and things like "Bad Pharma," books, like "Bad Pharma" haven't necessarily helped. And I can tell that's a frustration for you because you feel that there's goodwill and this stuff is done in good faith. Right?

David: Yeah. So I work with Samal, she's an amazing friend, she's down at Oxford university. She's about a thousand times smart than me, called Element Stride OB. And she is just an incredible...I use the word scientist for simplicity, incredible scientist. And I've been able to have over the years, loads of debates with her. And she believes the most important thing in terms of being able to unlock the scientific benefits is trust with society. And I absolutely couldn't agree more. And that's really become very apparent, you know, in the pandemic, particularly with regard to kind of vaccines. Now, she's got a very interesting take on how you kind of build that trust. And I really, really like it. And she's all about authenticity.

So the industry tries to portray itself as almost flawless. And she's got this point of view going, "Science isn't like that. And when you're in the lab you try many, many, many, many things, and many, many things don't work. And then over time you evolve and you reiterate, and you learn, and you develop, and then you arrive at the kind of the right solution. That's then obviously like tested insanely rigorously to a point of view where we can be really, really confident within it." And she just honestly believes in two things. Number one is like, that transparency and that authenticity. And she also, which I love, because I've got small children is, believes like the education of science should begin, you know, at the same time as you're teaching kids to read, because what she wants is a really, really like educated society who can, you know, be informed and be knowledgeable. And therefore we can have that authentic and transparent relationship with, and have these very, very educated conversations. So yeah, I'm really quite frustrated at times by their negative persona because I feel in some respects, I represent some of the most incredible scientists and medical leaders who've developed the most unbelievable treatments that can bring about a huge amount of benefit. But without trust and with paranoia, anxiety, you know, you kind of limit what's achievable. So yeah, I can be frustrated by it.

Will: That's very interesting. That's a very interesting topic in itself. Do you think anyone outside of what you do, you know, just out in the pharmaceutical or healthcare industry, has anyone really nailed that? Like has anyone looked up to as a fantastic example of developing that trust, potentially through authenticity, but who knows what strategy they're using. But has anybody actually, you feel gained that trust in a tangible way?

David: So, I would say there'll probably never be greater learnings in that space than through the pandemic and the vaccine, you know, in terms of the challenges that society in industries had to face, and how we've then tried to overcome and build like that knowledge and that confidence. So I would hope that all the lessons that we're all more than aware of over the last 18 months.

Will: That's a big hope, Dave.

David: Yeah. But, you know, from leadership, from misinformation, from the distribution of validated information, you know, incredible learnings, and I would like to believe that the industry is probably in a better footing than it has been in the past. And we've probably only had opportunity to kind of build on that platform moving forward and learn those lessons, and be much better, you know, moving forward in terms of partnership and trust to enable...Really, the only thing I'm gifted about and the only thing I really care about is the ability for people to be able to make informed decisions and to enable those informed decisions.

Will: Yeah. I really, really hope so. I hope you're right, because I do worry that anti-science...I'd never really listened or even thought about before the pandemic, the idea of people being anti-science, and I feel like I've heard about it and even in some level encountered it. And that does worry me. And I think you're absolutely right. I think it's all about education.

David: But can I tell a story that sort of speaks to this? So first couple of weeks of the pandemic, and I'm chatting to a friend of mine who I used to work with called Bob Wayne Mike, and it's just entering the period of lockdown. And we could never do this, but, you know, we got this idea and we go, "God, wouldn't it be great if everyone who was sort of respecting the lockdown had some way of sort of showing it on social media, you know, so it was like a green band on their wrist." And it really, really quickly got across the world, you know, everyone who was kind of supporting it. It's brilliant there. And, you know, then you kind of share it enough, it goes, and then someone's going, "Oh, wow. And it could also, you know, check people's like temperature and, you know, check the blood, and it could check the local weather, and it could do all these thousand different things, and it could do everything."

And then it ends up doing nothing because that really, really simple idea, that was just a green piece of string that could have been live within 24 hours suddenly becomes like really, really convoluted and complicated. And one of the things that I really believe in as we move forward is like simplicity of going, "Here's a really good idea, look, using technology or not using technology." What I'm a big believer in going is, "Let's keep things simple, let's deliver on them, and let's build momentum, and features, and innovations, on top of that." And that for me is a big, big thing in the space as well. Keeping things simple and impactful, generating momentum and interest, and then moving forward.

Will: Yes. I think you're right. I think that whatever works, whatever is effective, it's just not about...I think you've already hint that it's not about playing with the biggest shiniest toys of the moment just to kind of look good. However, on that point, one thing I did wanna ask you, just from where you're standing, which is a great viewpoint, I think. What digital technologies in the context of marketing, what are you most excited about? What are you kind of hoping there'll be an opportunity to play with creatively in the next campaign that you work on?

David: For me, it's much more around the biggest change in communication. So you and I are doing this from like the opposite sides of the world, and it feels pretty comfortable, feels pretty normal, it's how we're now kind of working. So I think the biggest change, and I'm definitely not gonna sit here and go, "Oh, we're gonna do something in the matter," because I'm sure there'll be a rationale and a purpose and it'll make sense, you know, somewhere, and I'm kind of excited by it. One of my partners in The Considered, Professor Shafi Ahmed, seems to spend more time in there now other than anywhere else. And he's a surgeon, which is amazing. But I'm definitely not gonna go, "It's this platform or that platform." But I think the biggest change and the biggest space where technology plays a role is just how we communicate has changed, like, so dramatically.

So we're now much more comfortable in terms of like hybrid, we're much more comfortable in terms of virtual engagement. They feel much more natural. The ability to create content has changed, like, profoundly from having to, like, travel around the world with a camera crew and a microphone, to being able to, you know, speak to five people in a single day. So I actually think the biggest, biggest, biggest change will be in terms of how we generate and create, and then curate, and disseminate high quality, genuinely interesting, like, content. And I think the make-up of editorial, and communication, and campaigns, and all these different things, I think it's changing really quite dramatically and will continue to change. And to your point before, deals with one which is around products and services.

And I think the biggest change will be in how products and services are developed and going from a discreet intervention to something that's much more, you know, an ongoing dynamic that like learns, and responds, and feels much more like an ongoing sort of partner and coach. So I think...Seriously I think everything is gonna change and it's gonna change quite rapidly.

Will: It is. But I suppose my question...I'm more just on a personal level, I'm not asking you to sort of nail your, you know, your entire raise on detra to one thing or make a big statement, but just very personally, is there anything that you...Are you excited about the metaverse, VR, AR, just video, and the way that's going? Like, what floats your boat, what do you kind of enjoy working with most or get excited about?

David: I am in equal measures, excited about it, I'm terrified by the metaverse. So I have absolutely no idea why you'd wanna go into a McDonald's to order a burger when you can just do it through an app. Like, I don't understand like that experience and what that represents. But the other aspects, again, so my partner Professor Shafi Ahmed, is giving lectures in the metaverse, and I go, "That's incredible. Right?" So, and he's done like three TED Talks and he's a well famous surgeon, and he's done some amazing stuff. And instead of educating 5, 25, 50 students, you know, in London, he's educating students on the metaverse from around the world and, you know, driving sort of medical and scientific exchange. And I go, "That's absolutely, you know, incredible." A key part in what I do is conferences and, you know, really expensive to produce, you know, huge, I guess quite a significant kind of environmental impacts when you consider people like traveling around the world. Quite limited, you know, in terms of how long they went through versus 365 days a year.

Will: It's a pretty inefficient way to share information between humans. Isn't it? I suppose, a conference, yeah, as it stands.

David: Yeah. Like, you know, I mean, there's a lot of suppliers who are going, "It's really efficient because it's very, very profitable." But I agree with you in terms of just like, that probably made sense like the '90s and there was no other way to kind of facilitate scientific exchange and then bring people together. Does it make sense 10 years later? God, I don't think so. And in that space, you know, I think the metaverse is really interesting, but equally man, like, you know, terrified by it as well, as, you know, a parent with young children and just...

Will: They play "Roblox" or "Minecraft," your kids?

David: Yeah. We’ve obviously, tried desperately...

Will: Because that's the metaverse. That's all it is.

David: Yeah.

Will: I mean, we're in the metaverse now, you know, it's not...I think that some sort of bad version of second life, you know, it doesn't necessarily have to be what it is. And I think we're stepping into it in many ways without realizing it. But like you say, it's when it starts to actually replace things like for instance, a conference. And I think that's when it really starts to truly manifest in our culture, in society, and that is happening and is interesting for sure.

David: It's when it starts to feel that, that we play along, that starts to get nervous. You know what I mean? And I'm trying to go to my little boy going, "Come on, let's go play football." And he is like, "I am playing football," and he's on Nintendo DS. But that's no difference when me and you were kids playing the first version of FIFA, so, you know, which parent is not concerned?

Will: Exactly. Exactly. Okay. So our listeners are information-hungry marketers, digital marketers, looking to get ahead of the game as the title of the podcast suggests. And so if they were thinking about going into a career in healthcare marketing, is it any different than going and working in any other industry, or do you do certain things like SEO, or PPC, or become more prominent in healthcare?

David: Yeah. I mean, I think bizarrely, people are trying to use their complications almost as a deterrent. Which I don't really agree with. You know, when I'm looking to add people to the team it's, are you an incredible ideas-person, strategists, technologists, brilliant, come and join us. And do you have heart? Do you have empathy? Yeah. Great. Perfect. So no, I don't think there's any particular, like, challenges. And the thing is you marry people together, don't you? So you take that brilliant creative technologist or developer and you put them with, you know, brilliant kind of scientifical medical mind, and then, you know, serendipitous, you watch what happens and 9 times outta 10 it's pretty awesome. So no, I would actively encourage people to get into it.

Will: And if I was one of your mates when we were down at the pub and I was saying to you, "You know what, Dave, I actually really fancy doing what you do and going into that industry." What would you tell me about it? How would you prep me for that, for my job search that starts tomorrow?

David: I definitely wouldn't deny that it's hard work by any stretch the imagination. But you're talking to someone who's loved the last 20 years and is very exciting for the next 10. So, you know, I'd be pretty enthusiastic in terms of the opportunities to use creativity and use technology to do something meaningful. I definitely wouldn't hide you from the fact it's hard work. I wouldn't hide you from the fact that there's more barriers and probably more hurdles than in any other sector. But as with anything there's always ways around, there's always, you know, solutions, you maybe just need to work harder and try more.

Will: So what if I was gonna launch an agency in this sector, what would you say based on your experience?

David: It's an interesting time to do it, you know. I guess there's loads of reasons why you wouldn't as we, you know, come out of the pandemic and the world works in different ways. And then I go, "But there's loads of reasons whereby actually now as a result of new ways of working, you know, so it's a real advantage, and it's allowed us to have quite a large impact." So we launched in September '21, so just under six months ago, and we operate in a space with big, big, big agencies of, you know, anywhere between 1 and 5,000 people, you know, very, very well recognized, huge budgets behind them, particularly around kind of marketing and brand awareness.

But for the first week of launch, we largely sort of dominated the conversation. And actually, it was really interesting because we got asked to feature in this journal around like the top agencies, and I'm going, "Oh my gosh, you know, they've probably got more people managing the office than we've got, you know, how come we're, you know, within this like five people you wanna speak to or five agencies." But it was real evidence that within that first week, you know, within healthcare, we were the most discussed agency, you know, despite you know, the fresh launch and despite being independent, and actually didn't spend any money at all in terms of media. So it was all done through like social and those different things. But incredibly successful because on one Friday, no one knew The Considered, and on the following Friday, the whole industry knew who we were.

Will: And what captivated them about the idea of that?

David: Well, I think there was a few things. So the idea captivated them. So the idea of going breaking the rules others follow. So if you look at the positioning of pretty much every agency in healthcare, and you'll not find anyone more committed to improving outcomes than me. But if you look at the positioning, very, very, very, very similar, you know, in terms of, very kind of, patient-centric, very much about impact and...Really, really interchangeable and similar. And then someone comes out and goes, "We're gonna break the rules others follow." You know, it's really, really bold, very, very different. So I think that really kind of captured people's interest. But more than that, what we really recognized is the dissemination of information even as an agency had just changed like dramatically. And we really leveraged that.

So Clubhouse was a key aspect in our launch and we'd spent three months sort of building this community on Clubhouse, and LinkedIn, Twitter, social, all these different platforms and data. We were just light years ahead of the other agencies in terms of the speed at which we were working, the quality and interest content we were generating, and how we kind of played with that across the platform. So basically it went from no one knowing who we were until the whole industry in a week. And that is not stopped, you know, four months later we still largely sort of dominate the various different social platforms in terms of the editorial and quality of content we produce. And really are in loads of ways like facilitating the conversation when people probably have 10 or 100 times our budget in terms of creating that awareness.

So for me, you know, launching an agency because we've embraced new ways of working, new ways of communicating, new ways of exchanging information, it's been awesome because we've been able to generate that level of interest because we've been really entrepreneurial and we've been really kind of bold in terms of how we're trying to position ourselves. So I would be going to anyone who's thinking about doing it, "Today's about a day than any day, and the opportunities you have far outweigh those that would've existed three years ago, if you used the latest trends and the latest opportunities to facilitate conversations."

Will: Yeah. And it sounds to me like you went in quite strongly with content creation. Would that be right?

David: Yeah. I'll give you an example. I do a series, like "Rule Breaks of Healthcare," and oh my gosh, I've spoken to someone, Nigel Osborne, MBA, and it's incredible like a music composer, who's using audio stimulations to treat children with epilepsy, whilst also working in Syrian refugee camps, incredible guy. A rural archer driving diversity across the world, an incredible advocate for the BIPOC community. I've interviewed some amazing, amazing people in these like "Rule Breakers of Healthcare" interview series. Before the pandemic that would've cost me $250,000, and I would've had to spend six months flying around the world with an interview team, with a camera, and with a microphone, and now it took me, you know, less than a week, you know, I used platforms like Fyber, produces incredible content, and got it out there. You know, and it costs me less than $1,000. And that is the mentality I think that we should be exhibiting, that we can do for ourselves and for our clients, that the bigger and more established agencies just can't think like that.

Will: Yes. Use your nimbleness, your agility, your small size as a real advantage.

David: Yeah. And autonomy. I think autonomy is a massive word in what you just said as well.

Will: In what way?

David: Not having to drive everything through committee. So having that sense of, you know, belief in yourself and the team around you, encouraging that initiative and that autonomy, and believing in people and their intelligence to kind of make decisions versus, you know, the endless kind of meetings, and committees, and bureaucracy, around every little move you take.

Will: You really did spend a long time in big agencies. Didn't you?

David: No, I didn't. I got out because of all those things.

Will: No, but I'm just...It's so funny because that...Yeah. I mean that's yeah, of course, it goes without saying in a way, but of course, when you work in big business, when you work in perhaps healthcare, that's just not..it's not an option. So it sounds like it must be very refreshing in a lot of ways for you to be able to be that nimble speed boat zipping around these big cumbersome oil tankers, you know.

[00:49:27]

Dave, thanks so much. I feel like I've learned so much about an industry. I feel like our listeners have learned a lot about what, you know, what it might be like working on the industry and, yeah, it's been a very interesting little journey through and hearing about you starting the agency as well. So one last question for you, tell me where our listeners can find you and connect with you online?

David: Yeah. That's so easy. LinkedIn is the main platform I use and supported by, you know, Twitter and various other ones. But if you go to LinkedIn, David Hunt, The Considered, and then we have all the Rule Breaker interviews, all the health control theory, and all the other kinds of thought leadership and ideas about how to change healthcare and how to launch an agency.

Will: That's fantastic. We'll make sure we go and do that. Well, Dave, thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it. And I hope to chat with you again soon. Cheers.

David: Yeah. Ideally next time later in the day, not 6:00 in the morning my time.

Will: Yeah, we can definitely do that. Yeah. Thanks a lot, Dave. See you. If you enjoyed this episode, subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And for more information about transforming your marketing career through certified online training, head to digitalmarketinginstitute.com. Thanks for listening.


Will Francis
Will Francis

Will Francis is a recognised authority in digital and social media, who has worked with some of the world’s most loved brands. He is the host and technical producer of the DMI podcast, Ahead of the Game and a lecturer and subject matter expert with the DMI. He appears in the media and at conferences whilst offering his own expert-led digital marketing courses where he shares his experience gained working within a social network, a global ad agency, and more recently his own digital agency.

Connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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