Byravee Iyer
Feb 5, 2015

Ogilvy CommonHealth eyes Asia's 'enormous' opportunity

GLOBAL - A year after officially launching Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide Asia-Pacific (OCHWW), chairman and CEO Matt Giegerich is on a whirlwind Asia tour that includes a planning meeting on how to scale the business for the region's “enormous growth opportunity”.

Matt Giegerich
Matt Giegerich

OCHWW Asia-Pacific has about 100 people working in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and India. The company also has a sparse presence in other Asian countries, but not enough critical mass to list official offices.

The agency’s interest in Asia comes as several companies, including GSK, AstraZeneca, Bayer and Pfizer, have moved international headquarters to the region. Of the markets, Singapore remains an important regional hub, while China and India by virtue of their scale present massive growth opportunities.

The agency's client base is 70 per cent prescription drug brands, while the remaining percentage represents other aspects of health and wellness including nutrition diagnostics, fitness and wearable technology. Ogilvy’s healthcare division now accounts for about 10 per cent of overall business.

Globally, OCHWW has about 1,200 people. It tends to organise around developed markets first, followed by emerging markets. The work it does ranges from clinical medical education targeted at physicians—where a brand is not yet approved but needs to establish understanding of its science and mechanism—to advertising and promotional messages aimed at physicians and the patient community.

According to Giegerich, Asia is in the sweet spot of global trends. In China, there’s a massive aging population that is moving from rural to urban areas to get the highest standard of care. Inside of that, aided by increased access to information, there has been a big shift in spending: from acute conditions to chronic ones. “As the population ages and they have more access to care we’re seeing more treatment of chronic diseases and the prevention of these,” Giegerich said. “That’s where communication really helps.”

Spend trends

As for how clients spend, Giegerich said that it varies by client, brand and category. Typically, most companies follow a sequence. When a new breakthrough cancer drug is introduced, for instance, the maker drives a massive effort to raise awareness in the prescribing community. In most markets, companies simultaneously work to get the payer community (governments and insurers) motivated. “In many cases, they are the audience that decides if this brand is available or if it will be reimbursed by the government or insurance,” he said.

On the other end of the continuum, heavy emphasis is placed on the patient community when advertising products like seasonal allergy medications. “There’s a huge range in between those two ends, and we’re involved in each one of those.”

In Southeast Asia, with no clear regulatory environment, pricing and access isn’t clear cut. In Indonesia, Philippines,Thailand and Malaysia, primary care accounts for a sizeable chunk of marketing budgets. Conversely, India and China are more focused on niche, specialised drugs. More developed markets like Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore tend to be positioned as medical tourism hubs, where affluent people from other regions seek treatment.

For Giegerich, the game changer is the rise of digital, content creation, orchestration and curation, which enables healthcare brands to be served in a multi-channel, integrated way.

Digital is revolutionising the slower-to-adopt pharmaceutical industry as companies turn to mobile, search and social for cost-effective marketing to reach consumers and physicians, he pointed out. “Companies are wrestling with the transformation. Everything from the way brands are promoted to the way physicians administer medical records is going to go digital.”

Award recognition

Last year, Cannes announced the first Lions Health Festival to recognise creative communications in healthcare and wellness, a milestone that Giegerich does not take lightly. The awards programme is split into two categories: prescription and health and wellness. He’s certain health and wellness will thrive with lot of great work submitted.

Healthcare marketing agencies face challenges in the prescription sector, where they’re limited by the numerous regulatory hurdles. “This limits the pool,” he said, adding that the company is nevertheless committed to participating. “We’re full in and full on, but I know a lot of our most amazing work is back home cause we aren’t allowed to showcase it.”


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