GA+ Sessions – Get Creative by Darren Appleby

Welcome to the Get Animated guide to creating better digital content in healthcare. In this first session, we are going to consider what it means to be creative.

Let’s start by considering creativity, or put another way, what does it mean to be creative?

What’s this?

A roll of tin foil I here you say – well that is accurate but thinking creatively, it can be anything you want it to be.

I shamelessly stole this from a Creative Director I worked with about 5 years ago – I’m sure he’ll forgive me. He told me something else about being creative that I’d never considered before. Being creative is being brave. And I can prove it with the help of a couple of volunteers.

“Hey Eva – I’ve left some paper and coloured pens there. Would you do me a favour? Eva, would you draw me a pirate, please? And Axel, I’d like it very much if you could draw me a castle – is that ok?”

Ok, we’ll come back to see their work in a little while…

You see, when we’re younger and we start to master holding pencils and crayons, and our parents or siblings or teachers ask us to draw something, we just get our heads down and let our imaginations go wild. It’s the freest form of artistic expression you’ll ever see. As young children we don’t care that there’s a big gap of white between a blue sky and a green landscape; or that our horse has 5 legs and a burger on its head. And these pictures are brilliant! Look at these monsters – taken from a child’s concept and artworked into something a little more polished…

…but the original idea is still the same and I’m sure many of you have your own budding Picasso’s works on display behind fridge magnets.

You see as we get older, we get critiqued by individuals – who have no right to challenge what you do. It is your idea. It is perfect. It is exactly as you intended it to be.

Yet our egos get a little bruised and we withdraw from that freedom. We hide our artistic impression and say we cannot do that. How many people have you heard say they’re unable to draw? Of course, they can, they’re just afraid that they outcome will be mocked or unrealistic.

Unless of course, these individuals work in creative agencies. Bonkers the whole lot of them. And wonderfully brave.

Brave to accept the challenge. To help customers’ products stand out from the crowd. To educate in an engaging way. To deliver imagery and messaging that changes behaviours.

This is especially, if not more important, in healthcare communications. The target audience can be extremely small and select. And of course, everything is regulated, and rightly so, which means thinking creatively to capture the attention of your audience is to be even smarter and far more brave.

So how do you, as marketers, capitalise on this brave resource?

I think at first, we need to consider the roles and requirements of the key stakeholders in any piece of promotional or educational content:

We have our friends in regulatory – they have a responsibility to approve and sign-off what we say. That the code isn’t being compromised and we’re not making claims that can’t be supported by clinical data.

Your procurement team has a responsibility to ensure your suppliers operate ethically, and that they can deliver what they promise and are priced reasonably so marketing spend goes further.

There are product managers. It is their responsibility to be able to clearly articulate the benefits and features of whatever products they represent

In the case of promotional material, you have your sales teams to support. They need to have materials which act as sales enablers. Content that simplifies the complex and contains key messages that are easy for customers to remember.

Your customers are key stakeholders too. They can be a valuable source of insight to what the market needs and also, if your product or service can help them make better decisions in the world of healthcare, this will ultimately mean better outcomes for patients. In this space, we can all literally help to save lives.

So, what is the role of the marketer in all of this?

Well the clue is in the title really – they need to understand their market:

  • Who the audience are and what are they like (and we’ll talk about this a little more in the next video in this series)
  • The size of the market opportunity
  • Who are the competition and how are they performing?
  • What are the forecasted business objectives of the product in its marketplace?
  • And to understand the benefits and features of their product (or portfolio) and to tie all of this together to consider campaign elements that are going to make the product a success

And while marketers do many other things, I want to ask a rhetorical question. Is it the role of a marketer to be creative? They should be able to appreciate why creative work is effective and how it plays a role but, they don’t have to come up with all the ideas. That’s why they work with specialist agencies.

What they do need to do is to write a brief that is useful. A brief that allows their agency to be creative, brave, AND pragmatic.


I’ll talk about competitive pitching in a little while but let’s just consider what the marketers need to share with their agency of choice to help everyone succeed. So that all the key stakeholders I mentioned get what they need and more importantly, so that your business’s objectives are achieved.

You need to identify what the problem is you’re trying to address.

You need to share all you know about your marketplace

You need to share all you know about your target audience – or whether indeed further research into your audience forms part of the task

You need to provide timelines for action. For example, there’s an industry event where we could make a big splash; or we anticipate a positive recommendation from NICE; or our product loses its exclusivity status in Q3 next year and we need to defend against generics; or – in the current climate – we need to educate patients to manage their condition and the delivery of clear and concise training materials simply can’t come soon enough

What you do not need to share, is what you think the required solution might be. Prescriptive briefs can seriously detract from what’s really required. The first thing I’d ask if I received a brief saying ‘we want to build a new website’ or ‘we are looking to develop an app’ is….why? And I’d keep asking why until I got all the answers to the previous points and truly understand what the problem is you want to address.

I’m not saying that what you thought you needed isn’t the right thing. I’m simply saying that as a responsible agency partner, it’s my duty to respectfully challenge your thinking and for you to acknowledge the debate as a healthy curiosity to make sure whatever we go off and do actually meets the real needs of your business.

And that’s a nice lead into – choosing your creative agency.


We all acknowledge that marketing spend has been cut and that you have a responsibility to invest your budget wisely – so competitive pitches do play a role. But imagine this…

If you have a shortlist of say, 5 agencies, and you’ve done due diligence and they’re all reputable organisations with a good track history. If you send your brief to 5 companies and ask them all to develop a full and detailed pitch – and each agency puts 3 or 4 people onto that task. And they all work hard to come up with concepts and then pitch to you on a date at some point down the line. Then lets say you shortlist two of them and ask them to refine their ideas based upon your feedback and they come back and pitch again, and then you choose the team you think you could best get along with….that is a huge stack of time and money for all of those unsuccessful agencies and it’s really not required.

Last year I met a regional portfolio lead for one of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies, and she told me her approach to pitching, and it was this:

Contact the 5 agencies in your shortlist – give them your brief – ask them to get their ideas down as scribbles and sketches and concepts and come in to talk you through their thinking. This will give you all you need to know about how they work (and of course, because you’ve done due diligence you’re very much aware of their capabilities); and whether you think you can form a strong relationship moving forward. One where they’re comfortable challenging your thinking and you respect their opinions and ideas.

And then tell them how much you want to spend on the task. Within reason, there should be no way a smaller budget should get in the way of sound creative thinking.

I’m going to share a video [10:09 in the video above] that was produced by Precision Effect (formerly Big Pink). You will be able to quickly see that this is not a big-ticket item but it is very emotive and was hugely impactful when it launched.

So to summarise, being creative is about being brave. Hey kids, how are your pictures coming on?

Wonderful stuff!

Being brave enough to challenge the norm. Being brave to deliver something unique but while remaining compliant – being wreckless isn’t being brave at all. Being creative to utilise marketing budgets so they work as hard as possible.

We must all embrace the key stakeholders and consider their needs and inclusion in the creative process; and you must choose the best partner for you – the one you trust to help you fulfil your creative potential.

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