The Pharma Report: How transparency and asking the right questions are key in 2020

Brightworks brings cross-category digital acumen and a frank reality check to pharma
As the AOR for Abbott Diabetes Care, Brightworks conceptualized and executed the “FreeStyle Freedom” campaign which spans TV, OLV, CRM and experiential, and won three national marketing awards in the last two years.

As the AOR for Abbott Diabetes Care, Brightworks conceptualized and executed the “FreeStyle Freedom” campaign which spans TV, OLV, CRM and experiential, and won three national marketing awards in the last two years.

Brightworks began life 15 years ago as a digital shop in Toronto and those digital roots have been a strong foundation for growth ever since, positioning the agency particularly well to deal with the challenges of 2020, even adding five staff and four new clients since the start of COVID.

Now more than 80 people strong – about half in-house and half an extension of the team who are brought in to meet specific project requirements – Brightworks delivered over 500 business solutions in the last year through channels like TV, print, digital, social and experiential.

Managing blood glucose can feel like a full-time job. To show diabetes patients that Abbott’s new FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system can change that, Brightworks let consumers experience the technology hands-on, which sparked word of mouth, increased online traffic and impacted conversions.

Managing blood glucose can feel like a full-time job. To show diabetes patients that Abbott’s new FreeStyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system can change that, Brightworks let consumers experience the technology hands-on, which sparked word of mouth and impacted conversions.

While Brightworks president Neil Follett describes healthcare as foundational to the business, “we’re not a pure play healthcare agency,” he notes. “Probably 30% of our business is outside the space. We work in financial services and beauty, and in other categories which are often a cycle or two ahead in terms of what they’re looking for digitally. We’re able to bring that experience over to healthcare to provide a different perspective.”

And that perspective is crucial when it comes to breaking through in a digital landscape that’s become much more of a focus for pharma due to COVID. Really, he says, it’s about asking clients the right questions so that you’re not just contributing to the noise.

“When clients are saying ‘I need to be digital,’ the goal isn’t to embark on a digital land grab,” notes Follett. “It’s about doing it in a way that is strategic, and lives at the intersection between what the brand needs and what the audience needs. What is the value proposition for the target audience? How is this helping them, or reducing the friction in their life? Historically, I’ve found that asking those questions is refreshing for clients.”

Increasingly healthcare clients are exploring digital channels, such as social, for both branded and unbranded content; Brightworks helps clients “sell in” these programs to leadership and regulatory and has worked with brands to grow their communities.

Increasingly healthcare clients are exploring digital channels, such as social, for both branded and unbranded content; Brightworks helps clients “sell in” these programs to leadership and regulatory and has worked with brands to grow their communities.

Sounds simple enough. But, as anyone knows, simple is the hardest thing to do well. Follett says that it begins with open, honest conversations. “I think the barriers between clients and agencies are some of the biggest limiting factors for success,” he adds. “Transparency is a key ingredient to success.”

Case in point: Brightworks just launched a national branded DTC campaign for a healthcare client, with TV being shot during COVID, the first DTC the brand has ever done. They took a unique approach to the creative; they assigned four independent creative teams for campaign development, each coming to the table in turn to pitch ideas. Follett says they have pulled back the curtain for the client, starting at the concept development phase, and truly partnered through the process.

“The clients sat through a full day of back-to-back creative presentations,” he recalls. “I think we pitched 27 different concepts. Some of them were great, some not so much. But, I wasn’t anxious because the client bought into the process, start to finish. They were unbelievably engaged. I think both the process and the work were radically better because of it.”

While that isn’t the norm, it wasn’t far off. “It was a super-charged version of how we like to work,” he describes. “We want to take the lid off the black box that is the agency creative process.”

Follett describes transparency as one of the foundational pillars of the agency. “This is essentially a people business,” he notes. “We don’t have some secret, patented process. It’s about how our people work together – what freedoms, support and tools are they given to work together more effectively. Really, our business plan has not fundamentally changed in 15 years. Being open and honest with our clients and focusing on doing awesome work that delivers results. Working in that way, year over year, makes your clients want to come back.”

As a testament to that approach, one of the newest US AOR relationships Brightworks signed during COVID, NeoGenomics, came through a CMO with whom they had worked years before. He reached out to ask them to pitch, and they won the account against eight other agencies. “As an independent agency, we need to earn every single one of our clients. We need to be scrappier and smarter.”

CONTACT:
Neil Follett
President
neil@brightworks.ca