In today’s advertising world, it seems every other person makes liberal use of the ‘p’ word, either to heighten the worth of their craft, or because they genuinely want to make a difference with their creativity. That word, of course, is "purpose".
But there’s one sector, often overlooked, that is almost entirely purpose-defined, because it centres on the thing that all people cherish deeply and personally: their health. For this reason, says Matt Eastwood, recently installed global chief creative officer at McCann Health, health and wellness is an unlikely hotbed of creativity.
“One of the tenets of the McCann way of working is we look for the meaningful role we can play in someone’s life,” he explains. “For me, the beauty of health is [that] every single thing we do automatically plays a meaningful role. You’re not looking at a shoe thinking ‘how do I make this meaningful?’ This is meaningful.”
Since joining in January from J Walter Thompson, where he was worldwide chief creative officer, Eastwood has been learning the ropes of a massive industry he readily admits he was “naïve and curious” about. At the same time, bringing a fresh perspective from a 30-year career in consumer advertising is a potent asset in a sector generally thought of as staid, he says.
“Generally, you’re trying to improve people’s lives just by what you’re saying to them. So that’s really a great place to be and part of why I was so intrigued to come over to the health side,” he says. “More and more I think purpose-driven work is where the industry is going, and nothing’s more purposeful than health.”
The ball is already rolling rapidly, as Eastwood says McCann Health is working on a global campaign for a new dengue vaccination in which the client is “very keen on the idea of really blockbuster creative” to announce it, and another coming soon combating teenage vaping.
“For me, that’s as good a creative brief as you’ll ever get," he exclaims. "It’s a fantastic opportunity. We’ve done some really cool work that I think is quite different for the health space, and the fact that I don’t know or understand the nuances of how things should be done is fantastic." Eastwood admits to feeling "like a kid in a candy shop" given the great opportunities he is seeing.
That intrinsic purpose, Eastwood says, is also becoming a key differentiator in recruiting talent. “I look at young millennials who will openly say they want a job with purpose. Hello, welcome to healthcare! It just seems so appropriate for them, they’re looking to do things that genuinely make a difference.”
Part of his pitch, Eastwood continues, is getting young people to see that advertising is much more than 30-second videos and billboards selling things. “I mean you look at the [Cannes Lion winning] ‘Immunity Charm’ and say that’s not an ad, but it is.
“You can extend your brain in a way that you never could 10 years ago, because you’d be writing a TV ad and a few print ads, which is fine too. But now, you can ask the question of how does voice-activated technology help solve a medical issue? That’s great, it’s so cool.”
To that end, looking at the wider creative industry and the seismic shifts taking place within it, Eastwood sees opportunity, rather than anxiety, for those organisations that “are doubling down on creativity”. The biggest recent sign of this has been Accenture’s acquisition of Droga5, which Eastwood believes is a good thing.
“It’s good for the industry to realise actually the thing we’re selling is creative business solutions,” he says. “In a way that’s why I’m pleased by the Accenture/Droga5 deal, because that will give creativity a chance to work further upstream, with the relationships that they have.
“I have no doubt there’s going to be all sorts of culture clashes and whatever. But David [Droga] is a very smart guy, they’ll work it out, and I think it’s going to be good for the overall industry.”
As for Eastwood, he is focused on driving greater creativity at McCann Health globally and is particularly keen to see how Asia’s health and wellness space develops. Right now India and Singapore are catching his eye in terms of health technology advancement, which he says just adds greater creative opportunities for the industry.
“Clients have to walk in the shoes of the patients and with AR and VR you can do that so much more readily now,” he says. “Even using technology to gamify a process can help with adherence, which many pharma clients are telling me is their biggest challenge.
“I don’t know if everyone else is looking at health in the same way, but I certainly am thinking we can do something really cool here.”