Healthcare Communications

Targeting the Middle East

Global healthcare agency McCann Healthcare Worldwide is setting up shop in Dubai. Callan Emery spoke to Richard Nordstrom, the Chairman and CEO, to find out more about the company and what’s attracting them to the Middle East.

Middle East Health: Who is McCann Healthcare Worldwide and what brings them to the Middle East?

Richard Nordstrom: We have just set up in Dubai. McCann Healthcare Worldwide is one of the world’s largest healthcare agency networks, with clearly the most extensive international expertise, and a passion to be the best in class strategically, creatively and operationally Our client base is predominantly pharmaceutical companies, with NGOs, health ministries and a variety of nutritional health and wellbeing types of companies, as well as hospital networks – basically any real player within the healthcare, wellbeing and wellness areas. So we cover the board. If you’re looking for healthcare marketing expertise that’s fundamentally based on evidence and a strong scientific underpinning, that is what we bring.

We’re communication and behaviour change experts. And we cover the world.

We have our headquarters in the US with offices in 33 countries. We are just initiating a presence in the Middle East North Africa region. The Dubai office will be the regional headquarters. We selected Dubai because many of our pharmaceutical clients have chosen this extraordinary city as their regional headquarters. This creates a synergy by bebeing close to our clients.

MEH: You mentioned your key clients are pharmaceutical companies. Are you looking at any other clients in this region?

Yes, we are looking at ministries of health and interested NGOs. We will definitely look at working with a variety of NGO pairs with the World Bank, Global Fund and USAID. We will build relationships with them here in this region as we have in the rest of the world.

So health systems, hospitals, any company engaged in enhancing health, healthy living, wellness, and prevention – these are targets of ours.

We will also engage with companies making ‘over the counter’ products for healthy liliving.

MEH: Have you spoken to government officials in the region at this stage
[June 2009]?

We have met some of the Dubai health administration officials with the intent of understanding what some of their needs are so we might create opportunities. In some countries the health ministry’s objective is to get the word out about what their healthcare systems services are providing so that they can help create better outcomes for their citizens. We do that, which is more along the lines of general branding and communications. The other is bringing in partners that will help drive initiatives. In places like China and India we work very successfully in conjunction with NGOs anand health ministries to drive behaviour change in areas such as polio vaccinations and HIV awareness, whether it be education, prevention through prophylactic use, or testing in underserved populations. And once diagnosis is made, and treatment begins, we create medicine adherence programmes for these populations, which are usually less educated and with limited access to healthcare. We know how to develop communications in these sensitive healthcare areas. . We have worked in these environments to address medicine adherence to provide better outcomes and also to address any social stigmas such as those associated with being HIV positive.

MEH: What areas of healthcare do you see McCann getting involved in, in this region?

Initially we will look at our pharmaceutical clients, which is our core capability. We have a lot of experience in medical communications and medical education. We create promotion and advertising to healthcare professionals and nurses, which is our core business. And we will do this here, but I think the pharmaceutical industry is undergoing enormous change right now.

MEH: Due to the financial crisis?

No, not really. It started long before the crisis. I don’t think the financial crisis has done anything but accelerate change. The kinds of pharma products that have come to market over the past few years, the future of innovation and the lack of replacement of many multi-billion dollar brands that are are going off patent, is eating into the growth potential of these companies. The sales of generics of these drugs in markets where companies don’t have patent protection is also hurting the pharma business.

Much of the future of pharma is in large molecules, in biologicals. It’s in vaccines, in areas of prevention of significant illness such as cancer vaccines like Cervarix. It’s in areas of long-term treatment to prevent disease, like Aclasta from Novartis, which is a biologic that is injected only once a year to prevent osteoporosis.

This is good for healthcare in the long run as it will reduce costs, but it will be more difficult for the drug companies. The model of the pharma company will have to change to address the new future of drug promotion and advertising. It’s not going to be a model which I call “share of voice” with lots of sales reps [the more sales representatives the more dominant in the market]. It’s going to be different. It’s going to be oneon- one, it’s going to be patient engagement, and it’s going to be, in large part, mediated by digital technology.

I don’t believe the pharma companies are going to try and recreate these models they have been using all over the Western world here. It wouldn’t make sense for them to do that. So they will reinvent themselves and this is a place they can do that.

So McCann will develop a unique set of models to address those needs. There are opportunities to create new forms of marketing engagement by leveraging the various media channels. We are uniquely placed as leaders in innovative ways to engage stakeholders and apply our learning and best practices from markets all over the world.

MEH: Which pharma companies do you work with?

Globally, we work with all of the top 20 pharma companies. Locally we have assignments with GlaxoSmithKline. Although we are relatively new here, we look to expand against our same multinational client list.

The focus of our clients for the last 50 years has been on the US, Europe and with a little dabbling in Asia -- Japan specifically. I think the shifting of where the growth is going to come from in the future is in other developing Asian marketplaces as well as MENA [Middle East & North Africa] and potentially Africa.

MEH: Can you give some examples of campaigns McCann has worked on?

We have worked on 54 of the top 100 brands. We’ve worked with, for example, Lipitor, Viagra and Avandia -- many Multibillion dollar brands for which we have had assignments all over the world.

With GSK, we have just launched the first campaign for their cervical cancer vaccine [Cervarix]. We launched it globally, have it in the USA and in the Asia Pacific region. Where it is available around the world, we’ve launched it.

It’s a very competitive market. Merck has a product called Gardasil [a cervical cancer vaccine]. They’ve won some markets, we’ve won some markets. It’s been a real dog fight, but it is going to change the way the market will evolve by looking to prevent diseases such as cancer. Our goal is to knock out cervical cancer.

We’ve done the consumer work. We’ve done market shaping activities to change people’s minds-set around inoculating their children, as well as adult woman.

MEH: What role do you play in facilitating governments to include these vaccines in their inoculation programmes?

Depending on the country, we play direct and/or indirect roles. We’re a communications company, so what we help do is create environments to change mind-set and perspective, what we call ‘Market shaping activities.’ For example, we take the evidence I mentioned earlier (which is the content) and carefully cascade it into the market place through a variety of channels such as using thought leaders, PR, symposia to informstakeholders on the benefits of inoculating adults is in the long-term going to lower the cost to the healthcare system, number one. And number two, it is going to create a more healthy and productive workforce. This is an example of how we would interact with government to show stakeholders that when they improve health outcomes through strong prevention programmes it keeps people working and thereby helps maintain the economic strength of the country.

The pharmaceutical company may already have a strong relationship with government and in such instances our role will be communications focused. In the instances where we have been in the country a long time our relationship with government is very beneficial in facilitating private-public partnerships that create a beneficial opportunity for the government.

MEH: You mentioned earlier that McCann has been involved in behavioural change campaigns. In this region there is a need for many people to change their dietary habits and do more exercise to reduce the incidence of obesity which is at the root of many lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes. Can you give some examples of your work in this field?

These sorts of campaigns take time. You can get into a market, but to have results a year later is very, very difficult. We’re engaged with governments all over Europe and Asia with behaviour change (BC) programmes. Governments in Europe and the US have started to focus on obesity as being a real problem, even though countries such as Germany and the US have highly corpulent societies – bad food, overweight people. They’re realising now that they cannot afford to treat these chronically ill emerging 60- year-olds and must aggressively promote weight loss.

Our work is all based on local market insight so we understand what it takes to get people to listen and take action. We have been doing this for years with both our healthcare and FMCG clients. All over the world we’d done massive awareness campaigns to promote the “little things” it takes to increase your exercise to prevent you from gaining significant amounts of weight. In the US, I think the awareness of obesity is just starting to gain national attention due to the healthcare debate, and our “little things” campaign has helped people believe, and are now saying, “I can do something about my weight”.

MEH: How would you conduct these campaigns, print, broadcast media…?

All of the above. We understand the market subtleties and how to most effectively engage the target audience. We’ve worked with government and non-government organisations. We’ve worked with experiential marketing, where we have brought together partners such as healthcare systems, like the Cleveland Clinic and interested foundations and retail chains who are interested in increasing value by bringing more healthcare to the community. This all brings about a higher level of engagement among people about their health.

MEH: How do you measure the success of these campaigns?

We are working at a new level of engagement with people – where you have an on-going engagement with people through the “third screen” (computer, TV and telephone) – through mobile technology and SMS texting where people opt into receive reminders and where they can send feedback. The future of successful engagement will involve creating a platform through which there can be a two-way communication and people will be able to monitor their success, at weight loss, for example. The people that are sponsoring these programmes will be able to measure their success as well. However, this technology does not exist all over the world yet.

Behaviour change is difficult but we are working hard with our clients trying to accomplish this type of massive prevention programme result. Weight loss is tough.

Looking at other examples, we’ve conducted a massive polio vaccination campaign in the outer reaches of India, with its limited technology, with the goal of inoculating 20 million children. Between 2003, when the programme was started, and 2008 our communications efforts help inoculate 35 million children. We created lots of simple education programmes as to why your child should be inoculated, often against religious opposition, and it was very beneficial. UNICEF, the sponsor of this initiative, refers to this as one of their case studies of successful behaviour change. In 1999, when UNICEF went in without a communications company, the inoculation campaign was unsuccessful. We created a new presence for UNICEF there; simple adjustments like having the trained vaccinators all wear yellow tshirts, for example.

This made them identifiable and created trust within the community as they went from village to village to village. So you went from a group that thought the government was trying to sterilise them to a position where virtually the whole community volunteered to have their children inoculated which is a fantastic result!

ate of upload: 30th Sep 2009


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