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Media Agencies… The Next Lead Agency

For years, marketing has begun with the brand, the campaign, and the big idea.  It has been shaped by what we want to say, how we want to say it, and how many times we want our “targets” to hear it. We would spend months and months developing headlines, copy, TV spot, print campaign, email and banner ads. Then, at the end of the process, we’d call the media team to find a place to stick it. Of course, the best places where we could “hit” as many people in our target audience as possible. Often not realizing that we shared this audience with our competition.

Many brands in healthcare tend to focus on women aged 35-64, either they suffer from the illnesses we aim to treat or we believe they hold the keys to every healthcare decision in their household. This is why for years, and even now, shows like the Today Show look like they our sponsored by big pharma and healthcare; we have been stuck in a game of “whack-a-mole,” trying to hit our target with our message as many times as possible, with a goal to change her behavior.

We need to remind ourselves that health is a journey like no other. From the moment we are born, it begins; from boo-boos and scraped knees, to getting fit, giving life, battling illness, the health journey is something we all have in common. It is a journey that is continuous, challenging, and sometimes rewarding – but always requires fortitude – from within and from without.

Health is a journey that matters. It’s one of the reasons that health is one of the most searched categories on Google, and the most discussed topic in social media; the reason that there are 1.2 billion pages of web content dedicated to health and wellness, and that half a trillion dollars of investment have been spent there in just the past 10 years.

Health is a journey made up of moments; moments that are full of emotion, decision and action. Moments that require us to take a step back and make sense of a new situation, to assess, learn, ask advice and seek answers. It is time to stop thinking first about the big idea and the campaign, but to begin our thinking with understanding where these moments and conversations happen. Basically shift from a media last mentality to embracing a media first point of view.

Media’s Evolution

For years media was the afterthought. When we were in a “tonnage” game this was fine. We were able reach the majority of our audience through prime time television and print. And let’s be honest, shooting the TV spot and the print campaign were much more sexy than talking about TRPs and reach frequency curves.

However, today, media is changing faster than advertising. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country behind India and China. According to comScore (May 2, 2014), 166 million people in the US own smartphones (68.8% mobile market penetration). These stats were not the case only 12 months ago. I believe media is the new black and where the sexy is happening.

Media has moved beyond spots and dots and impressions, to delivering critical information about what our customers truly want, how they want to engage, and where they gather information across their health journey. It’s beyond buying space. Media agencies today are working with publishers and producers to broker content deals. This is happening because our customers don’t want to hear everything from the brand. Furthermore, in pharma there is only so much we can say. However, we need to realize our audiences need more support and information than what is prescribed on our label.

Publisher partners can lend credibility and a trusted voice to help meet the needs of our customers. Oftentimes they can deliver the content our audiences desire faster and more cost efficient than creative agencies. For example, if your audience requires information around food, why are you creating the content, and not Food Network? If your audience loves music, why aren’t you streaming content from Pandora? Media agencies can help identify and develop partnerships with these types of publishers and move you from simply selling your brand to providing a service.

So, next time you are kicking off a campaign, thinking about your next big idea, I encourage you to look around the room and make sure your media team is present. Health is different. It is the only journey we are on that never stops. As brand marketers, we need to know where and how we are going to show up, not just what we want to talk about.

Matt McNally
Matt McNally is President of Publicis Health Media. Matt launched and leads the media practice of Publicis Healthcare Communications Group, arguably the largest media buying entity that specializes healthcare in the world. Under his leadership, the agencies within PHCG have secured media agency of record status with a number of pharmaceutical companies, and has introduced some of the most innovative programs in the space today. His impact on the industry extends past his work with clients, as he serves also on publisher advisory boards and is a frequent contributor to industry publications.

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