Many of my peers, including myself, have felt intimidated by pharmaceutical advertising. Not only is it an industry that restricts creativity, but it is infused with daunting medical terminology, endless acronyms, and strict regulations. Getting involved in the healthcare advertising field has allowed me to combine my passions for healthcare and psychology in a way I never knew was possible.
My junior year of college I took Introduction to Pharmaceutical Advertising with Professor Donald Phillips, which has led to my position as a Client Engagement Intern at Elevate Healthcare Marketing. Networking has been a massive tool in helping me reach my professional goals. Due to the pandemic, remote and hybrid classes made it difficult to create connections. The thought of creating meaningful relationships with professors almost seemed impossible. However, my commitment and eagerness to learn helped me gain incredible opportunities.
Stepping into the 9-5 corporate lifestyle in a high-speed industry where work-life balance is constantly a struggle gave me the first glimpse into my future. While this may sound negative, it is the reality of the industry. I’ve learned that good advertisers are always on-call, they’re flexible, and they prioritize their never-ending list of tasks. Client Engagement Supervisor, Taylor Myers-Ackerman is the queen of efficiency in this aspect.
Before starting my internship I had a preconceived notion of ‘pharma darma,’ as Don Phillips would say, which is the standard drug ads that all look and sound the same. It typically involves a patient, family, or nature landscape with an extensive voiceover of the Important Safety Information. These ads are repetitive and dull which led to over-saturation in the market. The FDA’s rigorous regulations demand that the information that brands present be the truth, the good and bad, balanced, relevant, and on-label which is the framework for the ‘pharma darma’ template to which most agencies conform. It takes a progressive agency like Elevate to partner with challenger brands to break the mold and produce award-winning campaigns.
For me, it is an honor to be given the opportunity to work with a healthcare agency that is built on a rare culture that goes above and beyond the standard while thinking outside the box in every aspect. Elevate is a highly accredited agency at just eight years old. They have won MM+M’s agency of the year for the past three years as well as co-founder and managing partner Lorna Weir being placed on the TITAN 100 list for the second year in a row. Elevate combines brilliant high-level strategy with powerful and meaningful imagery to communicate with specific audiences. The Co-CEOs keep employees inspired by having monthly ‘Cultivate Chats’ where the agency gathers to discuss Elevate’s fundamentals. It’s a time to have an open discussion as a team to share ideas and absorb thoughts from different perspectives with the goal of integrating revelations into the workspace. As an intern, I’m constantly reminded to ‘speak courageously’ as they have an open conversation policy that is highly encouraged. Most employees have been there for years, so sometimes a fresh perspective from someone younger who is looking at the work from a birds-eye-view can go a long way and provide valuable feedback to a project. To me, speaking courageously is not only asking questions but agreeing with good ideas, taking notes, being uncensored, and speaking with confidence.
My prior industry experience has been strategy and research focused working with non-profit and retail brands so getting involved in the account side of healthcare marketing was a pivot. Before working on the account side of Elevate, I was worried that I was not going to be as involved in the creative process as I had been previously. Thankfully, creative reaches further than art and copywriting here. Client Engagement and Project Managers are channeling different forms of creativity because they have been with the account from the start. They know the strategy, client asks, and the science better than anyone which allows them to push the boundaries like no one else can. They have to figure out how to be flexible yet consistent in order to keep the client happy while simultaneously guiding the internal team to ensure top-notch material is produced. Many creatives in the industry are turned away by the tedious healthcare jargon which is what makes healthcare marketers so impressive – particularly Elevate’s. They understand that the system is set up against their favor and instead of being scared away, it motivates them and they accept the challenge. A creative that can make a successful campaign is talented but one that can make award-winning FDA-approved campaigns is extraordinary.
Overall, I’m grateful to be a part of the well-oiled machine that is Elevate Healthcare Marketing as it continues to feed me knowledge and tools that I will keep with me as I build up my career.