In the books Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and The Master and his Emissary by Iain McGilchrist, the authors explore the workings of the human brain. I think we can use their insights to help build #AHealthierNation, especially if we consider the workings of the Human Brain Vs. Pharma TV Spots.
Both authors point out that our brains are hot wired to detect danger before safety. We detect anger in others before joy. This extends to images and words, even those in abstract of a lived experience. For example, we can detect an angry face in a picture of a crowd of happy people faster than we can detect a happy face in a crowd of angry people. The mention of a word associated with danger, even in absence of that danger in the present lived experience, triggers lightning quick brain activity associated with a threat. This has been studied and documented with MRI data.
Kahneman points out the we live our lives as stories, collections of experiences and memories that ideally come to a happy finale, and this is what we remember. In a particularly interesting chapter, he explores the idea of duration neglect and how as humans, we will willingly endure protracted and difficult experiences if the goal, outcome and future memory would be a positive gain.
One example he explains is that of amnesic vacations. An oversimplification; the duration of a vacation ideally has an effect on its quality. I think we’d all agree that 6 days are better than 3. But if the last day of the 6-day vacation is a poor experience, the overriding memory will be one of an unhappy vacation, despite the duration. This is the peak ending and most dominant lasting memory. For more on this you can watch his TED talk here.
Both of these books are fascinating and entirely different, but with many corollaries that make them worth reading. The Master and his Emissary makes clear the right brain is dominant in the role of detecting the incongruent, new, exciting and dangerous. The left brain is dominant in breaking it down into known bits of lived experience and cataloging it so as to help us detect the new vs the known, different or dangerous. There is a mysterious beauty to the power of this duality and the yin-yang balance that it achieves to help us detect danger and feel safe. You can watch him illustrate this in his TED talk here.
If we apply these findings of the workings of the human brain Vs. Pharma TV spots, it would suggest that ending a commercial with 30 seconds of “fair balance” that rattles off all the negative potential consequences of the therapy is not a good idea if we want people to seek out, consume and adhere to that treatment. What memory are we left with? What is the cumulative effect of these negative associations to the psychology of Americans, to what is now decades of exposure to often potentially life threatening consequences of treatment? We are putting our minds on high alert and then leaving ourselves with negative memories.
The FDA lives a paradox of endorsing the use of effective therapies that are proven safe and at the same time controlling how they are promoted.
The use of Fair Balance was deemed a reasonable solution to keep some checks and balances in the system. One early justification for direct-to-consumer advertising for healthcare products was that it would help make people healthier by helping them recognize health issues and solutions to what is ailing them. That said, I would argue it is not working entirely as hoped. Direct-to-consumer advertising has certainly proven to sell more drugs but is it really helping? Adherence and compliance rates remain terrible. As a nation we are not among the healthiest, despite having the one of the best healthcare systems in the world. I can’t help but feel that there exists an unintended and negative consequence of bombarding our culture with therapy risk profiles instead of more positive educational messages about living a healthy and happy life.
I’m not suggesting that the problems of adherence and compliance have been caused by advertising, they certainly predate it. What I am suggesting is that advertising executed in this way has become just another part of the problem and it’s time to consider alternative approaches that not only make us aware of solutions but improve long-term outcomes for #AHealthierNation.
Advertising is part of the brand experience and nobody wants to experience side-effects, even in the abstract. Patients need to be educated about the potential risks of any treatment and there are other and potentially better ways to provide this learning. Awareness advertising by its very nature employs both reach and frequency to achieve its goal. The persistent drumming of risk factors in combination with how our brains are hot wired to detect risk is a perfect storm. Our abilities to detect risk and the frequency of exposure caused by this type of advertising may be creating strong negative associations with these brands specifically and perhaps more detrimentally, pharmaceutical therapies overall.
On any given night during a TV commercial break it is not uncommon to see 2-3 pharma spots back-to-back. This results in approximately 1.5 minutes of nausea, hives, Arrhythmia, trouble breathing, night sweats, diarrhea, dizziness, life threatening rash, allergic reactions, suicidal thoughts, dry mouth, internal bleeding, increased blood pressure, stroke, liver damage, heart attack and other potential drug-drug and dietary interactions that in rare cases have caused death.
This parade of alarm bells is made no less volatile by the mostly generic visual backdrop of smiling happy people and the sometimes over-qualified claims of efficacy. Remember we’re hot wired to detect risk before all else. How’s that for a side effect? Human Brain Vs. Pharma TV could be a perfect storm of unintended consequences. June 2014 saw the beginning of OpenFDA an effort to make accessible the FDA database of side effects, drug labels, warnings, food recalls. This project is still in Beta but it holds great promise to help us better manage and understand the insights available through this repository and how insights gained across drug and device class can inform #AHealtherNation and perhaps will give us opportunity to create better, more positive and educational TV spots.
As communicators we can do better to create a #AHealthierNation and support our Physicians and other healthcare workers to help us live healthier lives.
On Thursday night, December 3 we celebrated the best of Healthcare and Wellness Advertising with the Global Awards at The NY Academy of Sciences. It was a big night with a tremendous volume of great work from around the globe. The passion and integrity of the work never ceases to amaze me. The world of Health and Wellness advertising continues to expand as the world wakes up to the idea that there is much more to staying healthy than taking pills. Western medicine continues to bring us many great therapies and we should never lose sight of that even as we expand our minds with more Eastern ideas of health and well being.
Disease awareness continues to gain momentum; It proves its potential as a strong alternative to branded advertising when it comes to audience engagement. If you read my recent blog post, Unstuck Yourself With Incongruity, on the importance of incongruity in the creation of and receptivity to ideas, you’ll note how the use of fair balance has potential to alert the brain to the potentially negative consequences of any given therapy. Consider the lingering effects of such messages when it comes to the pervasive lack of compliance and adherence that plagues the industry. Unbranded and disease awareness work are really important because engaging the brain in the context of a positive story will help improve the effectiveness of communication. Unencumbered from the negative messages of fair balance, we can help move individuals to a more positive and adherent lifestyle. This method can effectively engage the ego-energy of the individual with positive, affirming associations of the self.
The healthcare industry will always need communications that are focused on helping physicians better understand the medicines they prescribe. I’m sure most of us would like to see this work realized with more emotionally engaging ideas similar to what is now happening in unbranded efforts targeting consumers. Another area that is finally maturing in its potential is digital. Perhaps we have finally crossed a threshold; we are seeing very little digital work for digital sake. Achieving meaningful integration of ideas and medium delivers a powerful ecosystem of care that benefits everyone involved. This integration effectively unites all stakeholders into one seamless engagement. This type of work holds great promise to affect positive behavior change in all audiences, including physicians.
Last year in my blog post for the Global Awards I spoke of the deepening integration of digital into our lives, The Next Challenge for Global Healthcare Agencies and I believe this year we are beginning to see the potential of truly integrated ideas. There were a couple of entries this year that illustrate this point and I encourage you to be inspired by all of the winners here. One elegant creative solution is the idea called Penny The Pirate. Penny the Pirate is a brilliant integration of multimedia and delivers a concept that is anchored in a meaningful digital platform in conjunction with a delightful analogue solution. Say Ahoj to Penny the Pirate as she sets a new benchmark in integration. Penny the Pirate is from the great minds at Saatchi & Saatchi Sydney — Bravo to our friends down under.
With digital settling into truly meaningful integration, another positive aspect to this work is the trend we’re seeing in the return to ideas with traditional chops; ideas and executions not overreaching with digital hijinks — solid, great ideas…we might even call them analogue — resplendent in their simplicity and brilliance. This year’s Grand Global winner, the Luck Plan from Downtown Partners delivers on all fronts. The Windy City claims the big win; congratulations to the team..
Brandforming was honored this year to pick-up the mantle and create the key art for this year’s show. What a great way for agencies to support the Global Awards and their theme of creative globalization. You can read more about the origins of the idea, the art creation and the collaborative work that made it happen by going here.
It would be great to see more people expressing themselves through the arts, to put away fear and self-doubt and to create for the simple act of creating itself. It is powerfully liberating. The journey of any passionate artist is one of both refinement of skill and changing conceptions. Skill and creativity do not necessarily travel hand-in-hand. Some artists are much more advanced in their skill level than others but this by no means diminishes the power of self-expression of artists with lesser skill.
I’d like to personally thank the following people and organizations for their help and support in bringing this show together; Charles Wait, Chairman and CEO of Adirondack Trust Company, Mayor Joanne Yepsen of The City of Saratoga Springs and Angelo Calbone, President and CEO of Saratoga Hospital, their employees and in particular their internal communications, HR and marketing people who’ve been instrumental in getting the word out. Lori Goodale was not only one of the catalysts in the creation of the show, she has also been integral to the successful implementation, execution and coordination all communications with the participating organizations, as well as external media relations. Thank you Lori, for wearing so many hats, including the time coding of the video edits.
I also have to give thanks to Augie’s Restaurant for agreeing to supply their great food so we can all sup while we enjoy the show. Thank you to Gabby Delattibodier Wright for her art promotion and event planning support in bringing needed resources to the show. To Benj Gleeksman for picking up the ball and running with the design of the promotional materials to bring further awareness to the show — go Benj! Thanks also to Belinda Colon, for her excellent sense of story and translating that to the mounting and exhibition of the show. This is no easy task with a mix media show such as this. I hope you take the time to appreciate not just the work but the presentation as well.
Thanks too, to Ed Murphy, Executive Director of Workforce Development Institute for the enthusiastic support of his team as well as their financial assistance to offset some of cost of the show.
Thanks to these members of the extended Brandforming team, Erica O’Rourke and her team at Social Radiant for taking on the task of sharing the idea and promotion of the show through social media channels. Thank you to John Wager and his team at Galileo Media Arts for lending their talents to film the leadership interviews and other certain aspects of the show. Thanks in this regard must also go to Hudson Payer a very talented senior at Saratoga Springs High School, who jumped in last minute and agreed to film some of the individual artist interviews.
In many ways, this is a show about community, about the people and organizations that make Saratoga Springs such a wonderful place. Spring Street Gallery is a unique space, that is entirely not-for-profit. This makes it very liberating but also challenging for Maureen Sager to achieve the kinds of results that she does; shows that are wonderful examples of art, artists and the relationship of art to our lives. Shows that wake you up to the power of the arts, that challenge thinking and that inspire you to walk out a bit differently then when you walked in. This is one of the great purposes of art curation, if not of art itself. I, for one, walked into Spring Street Gallery a different person than I am today and for this I can not thank Maureen enough for her trust and her steady hand as she continues to guide, challenge and inspire me in all aspects of this show.
Last and most certainly not least — but most of all — thank you to the brave and creative artists who put their heart and soul into everything they do.
Head For The Heart.
We all know the story about how creative we are as kids and by the time we’re adults most of us lose it all. The arts in our schools are often the first thing to go when budgets are tight and the emphasis has always been in favor of the other core disciplines. But now it seems we’ve taken it all a bit too seriously and downgraded the arts in school to the point that is becoming a blind spot on the national agenda.
The major effort in our schools is to ground our children in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, STEM for short. This is a great curriculum with a noble goal, to make sure our future leaders are at the top of their game to help keep our country and our economy a vital global resource. There is only one thing missing from this concept and that is the arts. STEM to STEAM is the mantra many have adopted to overcome this direction. But are the arts and creativity really missing altogether, or just under appreciated?
To put the Arts back on the table as a priority for our children we need to recognize the arts as essential in driving creativity across all disciplines. I hope when you see the show and read about these artists that you will see for yourself the important connection between the arts and these other forms of knowledge that are represented by STEM. By leaving out the Arts we are in fact doing a great disservice to our children and our future. It is for this reason that the show will benefit our local schools through a matching donation to the Saratoga Foundation for Innovative Learning.
The program is the spearheaded by Michael Piccirillo, Superintendent of Saratoga Springs City School District, and it was borne out of the need he and his team identified to push the envelop and constantly look for ways to innovate in the education of our children. I had the chance to spend some time speaking with Mr. Piccirillo and I can say we are very fortunate to have him at the helm of our schools. Mr. Picirrillo is full STEAM ahead. You can see the discussion here. I hope you’ll come to the show and drop a few dollars in the bin so the foundation can keep doing great things for our kids.
In addition to seeing Mr. P’s video, check into our social media and keep an eye out for a series videotaped discussions with a few of the artists in the show. These video discussions will become available during the lead-up up to the show, follow the story here.
We solicited participation of artists from three large employers here in Saratoga, The Adirondack Trust Company, The City of Saratoga and Saratoga Hospital and we started with the leaders of the organizations. Through a series of one-on-one conversations with the executive leadership it was immediately apparent that not only did they enthusiastically support the idea and the participation of their employees in the show, but that they were highly attuned to the benefits of the arts and creativity in the lives of their teams and their organizations as a whole. You can see the conversation here.
To date, we have work from more 50 artists enrolled in the show with a healthy mix of creativity from original music to painting, photography, poetry, quilting — a tour-de-force of artistic and personal expression.
To be continued…
Earlier this year I was asked to curate an art show. I’ve never done this before, and leapt at the opportunity to get involved.
People who don’t work in traditionally defined creative roles are quick to point out how little creativity they have, in a very self-diminishing sort of way. This became the inspiration for our show.
We are all inherently creative and even those of us who work in jobs and careers that are not defined as creative, use creativity every day. To be human… is to be creative.
Many people go through their day-to-day lives without noticing just how creative they are and how their creativity helps them with everything from washing dishes, to driving the car, to helping their children with their homework. Creativity, in one very big sense of the phrase, is problem solving and how we innovate. Certainly, this is how it is thought of in commercial terms. But in a purely artistic sense, as a mode of expression, it gives us so much more. Not enough of us engage our senses in the sort of self-expression that makes the arts such an incredibly rich part of world culture.
Some people are much more tapped into the energy of their creativity and express themselves in all the ways that society enjoys so much through the arts. Most of us sit on the sidelines because it takes a great deal of courage to express ourselves in this way. Perhaps by drawing out the connection between the arts and creativity and the jobs and careers so many of us have, we may gain deeper insight into who we are and inspire more people to express themselves through the arts.
The creative work in the show is the product of individuals who are inspired by their own need to create. These are individuals that have overcome the self-doubt and the insecurities that hold so many people back, especially when we’ve been taught from a very young age that perhaps we are not very creative. I’d like people to think about this when they see the work because the show is going to feature the creativity of people who are not normally considered creative, especially in their day-to-day roles. We’re going to explore how the creative work they produce informs their day jobs, be they bankers, surgeons, nurses, tellers, engineers…whatever they do during the day…they are artists through and through.
To be continued….
In late June Brandforming was in engaged by Maserati of Albany to help launch their dealership. There are currently only 18 dealerships across the US that represent Maserati of North America. Compare this to Chrysler which, by one account, has 2,390 Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealerships in the United States or BMW with 350 and right away you see the exclusivity of the offering. Maserati is one of the great marquees of the auto world, sought after for their combination of high performance and luxury.
The challenge for Maserati of Albany is that the dealership officially opened with the arrival of their first cars in June, however, the dealership retail store will not be completed until some time next year.
So how do you launch a dealership without a destination worthy of the cars themselves?
The Brandforming team sat down with the owners of the dealership, the DePaula family, to discuss some ideas and gain some insight into their approach to running one of the most successful Chevrolet dealerships in the entire country. During our conversation we were interrupted by a number of calls from customers. Every call was answered and every need attended to by a member of the DePaula family. This was a great example of why DePaula were awarded one of the few Maserati Dealerships in the US, impeccable service.
As members of the community, the DePaula family support a number of charitable organizations. From these insights was born the idea for the introduction of the Maserati brand to the Albany Capital Region.
La Dolce Maserati and the #DePaulaDriveForACause were conceived as a way to link the charitable works of the DePaula Family with their love of automobiles.
The program consists of an auction prize, La Dolce Maserati, presented at a series of Gala events in Saratoga as part of an on-going charitable program call the DePaula Drive For A Cause.
La Dolce Maserati features 2 packages for 4 people, a total of 8 from each event, to experience the sweet life. On Oct. 4 participants will board the scenic Saratoga-North Creek Railway. They will ride in a vintage art deco dining car with a glass viewing roof and take in the views as they travel north into the mountains. The train ride was donated by the Saratoga and NorthCreek Railway. On board the train, participants will be served fine Italian delicacies compliments of Mazzone Hospitality. Upon arrival in North Creek, guests will be greeted by members of the Maserati team. Once checked out with their cars, participants will head off for a spirited drive through the mountains. On the return trip, guests will receive more food and beverage and a gift bag to continue La Dolce Vita at home.
We developed the package and set to work creating the content to drive the engagement. Activation consisted of placement of content about the event in Gala brochures, placement of cars at key venues around Saratoga, plus an exciting public relations package. The package included test rides for the media at opening day of the the horse track in Saratoga. This highly engaging content became the backbone of the social media strategy.
The Brandforming team executed this with flawless precision. The DePaula Drive For Charity continues to receive enormous support from the community; with nearly $20,000 raised for various charities, including Saratoga Hospital. The Oct 4 train ride is sold out with 50 participants. Maserati of Albany went from near zero awareness to being top of mind and the talk of the season. Best of all, they sold a number of these very fine automobiles and elevated support for their favorite charities.
People love knowing they can have fun and help their community at the same time, we couldn’t agree more.
A great deal of what the team achieved can be found on the event Facebook page The page and various posts reached well over 3 thousand people, achieved 450 likes and it’s been followed by local media. In addition, we achieved media pickup during a national horse racing broadcast, primetime news coverage and front page press coverage — you can find it all on the Facebook page.
This case proves, once again, that when you #HeadForTheHeart, great things happen. Look for another blog post about this project as we move into the fall.
A few weeks ago the nice people at the Clio Awards were kind enough to give me the opportunity to share news of my new creative agency and general point-of-view about work in the healthcare space.
I was really pleased to find this article in the Harvard Business Review that underscores and supports the approach we’re taking at Brandforming. In this article, Innovation Starts with the Heart, Not The Head, Author Gary Hamel tells the story of a health system in southwest Michigan that completely turned around their patient satisfaction scores when they started listening to their hearts.
As noted in my Clio Blog post, an industry obsessed with data points, medical technology and medical-science discourse, it is easy lose sight of the patient while geeking out over the great advancements being made. Letting all of these advances turn the art of healing into a loss of humanness leaves the job half done.